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SERMON TO PREACH 
Sermons by Twenty-one Ministers 


Edited, with an Introduction, by 


Dr. Charles Steele 


New York and London 
Harper 7 Brothers Publishers 


tie 7 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 
COPYRIGHT, 1927, BY 
HARPER & BROTHERS 
PRINTED IN THE U. S. A. 
K-B 


Contents 


PREFACE 
INTRODUCTION 


THE First AND FINAL TRUTH 
I John 4:8-10. Rom. 8:38, 39 
by Joseph Fort Newton 


THE TRIUNE ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


John 14:6 
by Gaius Glenn Atkins 


Can I BELieve In Gop? 
John 14:1 ° 
by William Pierson Merrill 


Curist, Priest AND VICTIM 
by William Cardinal O’Connell 


Tue Perrect SALVATION 
II Cor. 1:10 
by Merton S. Rice 


Wuat Is a REuicious Lire? 
by John Haynes Holmes 


Twin PERILS 
Proverbs 16:18; 29:25 
by Daniel A. Poling 


“TAM A HEBREW” 
Jonah 1:9 
by Leon Harrison 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 
Psalms 1:1 
by Harry Emerson Fosdick 


THE Onz-TuHInc Man 
John 9:25 
by Frederick F. Shannon 


CREATIVE FREEDOM 
Rom. 6:14 
by Lynn Harold Hough 


THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER 
Hebrews 13:8 
by Burris A. Jenkins 


106 


118 


134 


152 


164 


CONTENTS 


Is Jesus Gop? 
John 1:1 
by James I. Vance 


Tue GREATEST STORY Ever ToLp 
Luke 2:18 
by James E. Freeman 


INCONTESTABLE Fact AND INDISPENSABLE TRUTH 
i Cor, 15:74 
by Warren A. Candler 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 
John 20:22. Acts 1:8 
by A. Z. Conrad 


WuatT Is RELIGION? 
St. Augustine 
by James M. Gillis 


‘‘BEHOLD, THE Man!” 
John 19:5 
by Charles Edward Jefferson 


““Tue Gops YE Have CHOSEN” 
Judges 10:14 
by Robert Freeman 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 
AGCtS'17 :23 
by William L. Stidger 


Tue Cay To UNITY 
John 17:20-23 
by Charles H. Brent 


PAGE . 
174 


IQI 


203 


223 


242 


258 


274 


286 


399 


PREFACE 


Early in the year the Church Advertising Depart- 
ment of the International Advertising Association 
suggested to the clergymen of America that on a given 
Sunday in Lent, 1927, they take as their theme “IF I 
HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH,” and 
then to discuss it with the utmost frankness. ‘There 
is no doubt that thousands of pastors acted upon this 
suggestion. In one city alone, over fifty did so. 

This event attracted nation-wide attention because 
of the publicity given to it by the Associated and 
_ United Press and by the feature stories printed in local 
newspapers. 

Several of the sermons in this volume were preached 
on this occasion, and they are included in this series 
because of the great interest which they created. Other 
notable leaders in the religious life of our country 
were invited to write sermons on the same subject, 
especially for this volume, it being understood that 
they were to speak with freedom the Truth as they 
saw it. 

And so, we have in this book the viewpoint of 
Protestant, Catholic and Jew, of liberal and con- 
servative; but, we believe, each expressing the deep 
conviction of his mind and heart as to what is the one 
supreme message for the times in which we live—and 
let it be added, for the hour in which that particular 
sermon would be preached. 


Vil 


INTRODUCTION 


There is always a moment of suspense when the 
prisoner at the bar is asked by the presiding Judge if 
he has anything to say before sentence shall be pro- 
nounced; or when, at that particular moment in the 
marriage ceremony, the officiating clergyman solemnly 
raises the question as to whether anyone present knows 
of any reason why those about to be “joined to- 
gether” should not become man and wife. 

These are moments when final words must be 
spoken; or else, in some particulars, at least, the be- 
lated protestants must thereafter “hold their peace.” 

There is no doubt that under these circumstances, 
the principals in court room and chapel experience 
mingling emotions. What these are can scarcely be 
imagined. They would vary as widely as there are 
personalities involved. 

It is possible that when some of the preachers 
were asked to write a sermon for this book which would 
express the “one sermon message’’ as they believe it 
today, they honestly hesitated, because they had never 
thought of “final words.” It may have seemed too 
much like being trapped, like the prisoner at the bar 
who was asked to make a defense of his conduct, or 
perhaps they had in the past advocated certain doc- 
trines which were, in part at least, incompatible with 


1x 


INTRODUCTION 


their present-day beliefs, so that they could not be 
“Joined together.” Or, what might be even worse, 
they might in the future change their minds because 
they had received further light, and then they would 
be confronted with the ‘final words” of a previous 
period. 

All of these things are highly probable, for, however 
firmly one may accept certain teachings or conclusions 
on any subject, time always changes one’s opinions 
with reference to their details or application, even 
though the major premise may still be accepted. 

How many of the contributors to this volume passed 
through this process of thinking nobody knows. This 
much is certain—not any of the writers felt that he 
needed to present an entirely new truth, as though all 
that he had said in the past were inadequate. Un- 
questionably, in most cases, the sermons prepared for 
this volume express the mature thought and convic- 
tion of the writers, which have been spoken many 
times, and in different forms. Back of them are the 
very lives, the heart struggles, the deepest emotions 
of those who wrote them. 

In some instances the sermons contributed were 
preached just at the time when they were asked for 
and when they seemed to be the most important things 
to be said at that particular moment,—they were nat- 
urally the only sermons which their makers would 
preach at that time because the occasion demanded it. 
This may account for the apparent lack of a “full and 


x 


INTRODUCTION 


complete gospel” which some critics might expect from 
the minister who had only one more sermon to preach. 
It was not expected that each writer would present an 
entire system of theology or a complete code of ethics. 

A striking illustration of this is found in the sermon 
preached by Bishop Brent at Lausanne, which is in- 
cluded in the book. He was elected President of the 
World Conference on Faith and Order. On such an 
occasion there could be only one theme in his mind— 
“The Call to Unity.” That, therefore, became the 
supreme subject that he must preach about if he had 
only one more sermon to preach. 

Under all of these circumstances, it is remarkable 
that the twenty-one sermons in this book should be so 
unified and cohesive. While no particular topics were 
assigned to the writers, except the general theme of the 
book, they seemed, collectively, to have brought out 
the great, outstanding doctrines of the Church. 

Bishop Freeman devotes his entire address to the 
story of the birth of Jesus, while Bishop Candler em- 
phasizes the resurrection of Jesus. Dr. Vance makes a 
strong appeal for the divinity of Jesus, while Dr. 
Jefferson challenges us with the text “Behold, the 
Man!” Dr. Atkins speaks of the ““Triune Entirety of 
the Christian Revelation,” founding his discussion on 
the text “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life,” 
whereas Dr. Jenkins emphasizes ‘Jesus Christ—The 
Same Yesterday, Today and Forever.” Appropriate 
is Dr. Stidger’s address “‘Aware of the Eternal,’’ show- 


XI 


INTRODUCTION 


ing that we are living every minute within sight of the 
immortals. 

“Christ, Priest and Victim,” the stately address 
from Cardinal O’Connell, “The Perfect Salvation’ by 
Dr. Rice, “The Inspiration of Life’ by Dr. Conrad, 
“The First and Final Truth” by Dr. Newton, and 
“Can I believe in God?” by Dr. Merrill, ground one 
in the great fundamentals of Religion. 

“What is Religion?” by Dr. Gillis, and “What is a 
Religious Life?” by Dr. Holmes make stimulating 
reading to every seeker after the truth. 

Then follow the challenging addresses by Dr. Free- 
man on “The Gods Ye Have Chosen,” “The One- 
Thing Man” by Shannon, “The Curse of Cynicism” 
by Dr. Fosdick, “Twin Perils’ by Dr. Poling, and 
“Creative Freedom” by Dr. Hough, dealing with the 
more practical phases of life. 

The strong presentation of Judaism by Rabbi 
Harrison, under the title “I am a Hebrew,” gives one 
a broader conception of the basis of neighboring 
religions, and entirely appropriate is Bishop Brent’s 
“The Call to Unity,” with which the book closes. 

Every contributor to this volume is a modernist in 
the sense that he is face to face with present-day prob- 
lems. These he is trying to interpret in a place of 
leadership in the nation. More and more are the 
clergy being recognized as prophets and_ teachers, 
largely because men are acknowledging that the great 
questions of the day are fundamentally religious. 


X11 


INTRODUCTION 


The messages in this book will guide those who are 
seeking to know the great underlying truths which 
give religion permanence, character and power. With- 
out these it would become an empty vessel, disappoint- 
ing those who would drink at the fountain of life. 

CHARLES STELZLE. 


X1il 


If I Had Only One Sermon to Preach 


Che First and Final Cruth 


By JosrpH Fort Newton, D.D., MEMORIAL CHURCH OF 
ST. PAUL, OVERBROOK, PHILADELPHIA 


“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was 
manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only 
begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein 
is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son 
to be the propitiation for our sins.” 

—I JOHN IV— 8-10 


“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor 
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor 
height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us 
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

—ROM. VIIL— 38, 39 
VERY preacher has but one sermon to preach, no 
matter how many subjects he may select or how 
many titles he may use. It is the story of his own heart, 
the truth made real in his own experience and vivid in 
his vision, and he can tell no other triumphantly. 
Whatever text he may take, whatever art of exposi- 
tion he may employ, he is ever telling the one truth HE 
has learned by living; the “one beauty he was sent 
to seek.” By as much as he tells the truth of which 
he is utterly persuaded, by so much, and no more, does 
he persuade his fellow-souls. 
If I were preaching for the last time—as indeed I 
may be, since no one can tell what a day may bring 
forth—I should try to tell, however falteringly, but 


] 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


with every art of expression and every resource of 
insight at my command, the one truth most worth 
telling, or such part of it as life and love and death, 
and beauty and pity and pain have taught me to see 
in the dim country of this world. So my subject 
is the first Truth and the final Reality, the source, 
sanction and satisfaction of our mortal needs and 
immortal longings: the truth about God, by whose 
grace we have life and by whose inspiration we have 
understanding; the Truth that makes all other truth 
true. 

Such a truth is forever untellable, but we must for- 
ever be trying to tell it, since nothing else or less will 
patistyy vthe little, inhnite soul) (ot! many untihjat 
last, or soon or late, if faith and hope and love have 
made us worthy, we see the white truth which human 
words discolor. To that end I take two texts, written 
by the two master mystics of our faith, knowing full 
well that they transcend my power of interpretation, 
the one an exposition of the other; the first an affirma- 
tion—nay more, a revelation—so stupendous that it 
transfigures life and death and all that lies between 
and beyond, lifting the clouds from all our souls and 
setting us free alike from ‘an old dark backward and 
abysm of time’ and our fear of the Night and the 
Morrow; the second an anthem, a symphony, moving 
now with the lilt of a lyric, and now with the majestic 
‘sweep of an oratorio, ending in a Hallelujah Chorus. 
Such light shines, such music sings at the heart of 
our faith! 


2 


THE FIRST AND FINAL TRUTH 


I 


Surely, of all words ever uttered upon our earth, 
there are none greater than the words of St. John, 
in their profound significance and their satisfying sim- 
plicity: ‘God is Love.” These words, with their con- 
text, tell us the three things we most want to know, 
and the first is that God does exist, not as a figment 
of faith, still less as a dream, a guess, or a shadow 
cast upon the curtain of our hopes and fears, but as 
the one Reality in all, above all, beyond all, inde- 
pendent of our little minds and the inspiration and 
consolation of these our days and years. Aye, God is 
at once the meaning of the universe, to which all 
facts contribute—dark facts, bright facts, gray facts 
—and the hope of humanity; and to know Him, 
as Dante said, is to learn how to make our lives 
eternal. But even the reality of God is not enough 
until we know what He is, what is His spirit, charac- 
ter, and purpose. 

Every man is aware that he is every moment de- 
pendent upon a Power other and greater than himself, 
by what name soever he may call it—Fate, Force, 
Destiny, God. The real crux of the question is not 
-as to the reality of such a Power, but as to the nature 
and character of Him “in whose great hand we stand.” 
To know that God is love, meaning by love no soft 
sentiment, but a creative passion, a moral principle, a 
spiritual fellowship, is to know the meaning and glory 
of life and “the benediction in which all things move.” 


S 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Once we are persuaded of that truth, the rest is only 
a detail of interpretation, since we have found that 
in God and in ourselves which enables us to endure 
and triumph over anything that life or death can do 
to us; which Royce said is the real meaning and value 
of faith. By such faith we learn that there is tender- 
ness behind the hardness of life, meaning in its mys- 
tery, purpose in its often strange medley, and prophecy 
in its fleeting, fading beauty. 

Today men try wistfully to grasp such a faith and 
fail, because they reverse the order of things, forget- 
ting that spiritual faith and victory have their source 
not in human aspiration but in Divine inspiration. 
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He 
loved us, and sent His son”; which is a simple and 
vivid way of saying that religion has its origin in the 
Divine initiative, not in human invention, as so many 
fear in our day. If man seeks God it is because God 
first seeks man, haunts him, waylays him with every 
kind of strategy, and He will not tire nor tarry till 
He wins him, however far-wandering. No argument 
is needed; the facts prove it. Man would not imagine, 
much less need, religious faith if the object of it did 
not exist; there would be nothing to suggest it, nothing 
to sustain it. There will be no pause of mind, nor 
power of victory, until we return to the true order 
of experience: God first, God last, the source and ful- 
filment of our faith. 

Alas, in our day we are obsessed with introspection, 
seeking amid the phantoms of the mind for a subjec- 


4 


THE FIRST AND FINAL TRUTH 


tive salvation, as if trying to lift ourselves by our own 
shoe-strings: hence the tiresome egotism of an ingrow- 
ing religion, now so much in vogue. What we need, 
as much for our sanity of mind as for our health of 
heart, is an emancipating rediscovery of the obvious 
fact that our life is from above downward, and that 
our help and hope are in God. It was such an experi- 
ence that lifted St. Paul out of a hard legal literalism 
into the light, liberty and power of the Gospel and 
set him singing. If we add this anthem to the words 
of St. John, together they make “one music as before, 
but vaster,”’ until it fills the earth and the sky: 


“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, 
nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things 
to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall 
be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ 
Jesus our Lord.” 


II 


If we analyze that anthem for a moment, we dis- 
cover that the first separating, desolating fact that the 
Apostle faces, is Death. Until we make terms with 
the shadow that waits for every man, master its men- 
ace, and defeat its despair, we can have no security, 
no serenity. Mere stoic submission is better than re- 
bellion, and better still the rich, warm, loving act 
of acceptance of human destiny—an act not simply 
of the mind but of the complete being—which Shake- 
speare puts into the magical utterance of Edgar in King 
Lear: 


5 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


We must endure 
Our going hence even as our coming hither; 
Ripeness is all. 


But something more is both a possibility and a privi- 
lege, if we have the heart for adventure and know 
how to win it; such a yea-saying to the sum of things 
as Keats called “the very thing wherein consists 
Poetry,” and he might have added Religion. 

The spiritual history of Keats is a perfect example, 
if we take the wonderful two months following his 
letter to his brother, February 18th, 1819, until May. 
It began with a sonnet in which we hear a laugh of 
cynical despair, bitter and brittle, at “‘an eternal fierce 
destruction” in nature, life feeding on life in earth 
and sea and sky. The looming menace of dark death, 
a mockery to the love he desired, the poetry he 
dreamed, the fame he coveted, the beauty he adored, 
jarred him to the depths; as if it divided divinity with 
God. But in those two months of silence he won his 
way to victory, and death is no longer a darkness 
which blots out the soul, but the ecstasy and crown 
of life; “eloquent, just and mighty Death,” as Whit- 
man saw it. And with his spiritual victory, his genius 
bloomed in a perfection of form and a richnéss of 
serene and triumphant vision by virtue of which he 
belongs with Shakespeare, and the masters and deliv- 
erers of the soul. 

Then St. Paul adds the words, “nor life,” its un- 
toward vicissitude, its persecution of events, its buffet- 
ings of circumstance, which often enough seem to belie 


6 


THE FIRST AND FINAL TRUTH 


God and make Him little more than a figment of 
fancy. It is His love of us that holds through the 
night and the storm, and never lets go, though sorrow 
be added to sorrow, and disaster follows fast, and 
follows faster. Across the ages we hear St. Paul sing- 
ing songs in the night, counting it both an honor and 
a joy to suffer stripes, imprisonment, shipwreck, and 
at last death, for the sake of One who suffered more 
for him, even the shame of the Cross, its mockings 
and its muddy brutality. The words following, “nor 
angels, nor principalities, nor powers,” tell us of do- 
minions of superstition and hierarchies of fear under 
which men lived in the days of St. Paul, more real 
than the earth itself, but now, happily, melted into 
thin air, leaving hardly a memory of their terror or 
a trace of their torment. 

More real to us is the tyranny of Time and Space, 
“nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, 
nor depth,” both of which have been extended to dis- 
tances and dimensions so appalling as to affright and 
dismay the soul. Men of science reckon the size of 
the universe, as now unveiled, in light-year measure- 
ments, and the age of man upon the earth in eons that 
make us dizzy, until our tiny lives, so brief and broken, 
seem as insignificant as the life of a mote in the eve- 
ning air. Indeed, one of the amazing facts in the 
history of the modern soul is the spiritual inferiority 
complex in man in face of the physical order, as we 
have seen it grow from the time when Tennyson wrote 
“Vastness’ to our year of grace, if we may still use 


7 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


that word. Faith, once so mighty, has become timid, 
abashed, apologetic and on the defensive, as if suf- 
focated by sheer size, and bludgeoned by mere bulk! 
Why should it be so, unless it be that we have lost 
the key and clue to the meaning of life, allowing the 
victories of the mind to end in spiritual obfuscation? 

For surely the facts and forces of science are plastic 
enough, and may be justly given an idealistic interpre- 
tation as mechanistic; far more justly so, because it 
was the mind of man, toiling under the little gray 
skull-cap of the brain, that measured those depths 
and explored those distances. It makes one think how 
Jesus chided his disciples for their fear when a whiff 
of wind rocked the boat: “Why are you afraid like 
that? Where is your faith?’ Where is our religion, 
if its creative faith cannot subdue the new material 
universe, as uncurtained by science, to spiritual mean- 
ings, and find God not in the stars or space supremely, 
but in realities as real as pig-iron and potash which 
we know best through something in ourselves—also 
a fact in the universe and a part of it—which has 
never accepted utter identification with outer force 
and brute fact? Wherefore the history of love, and 
the prophecy of ethical passion? These, too, are facts, 
no less than salts and acids! 

Nor Dante, nor Milton, nor any other singer, rises 
so high as St. Paul does when, in ending his cata- 
logue of the antagonists of faith, he strikes out the 
sweeping, shining phrase, “Nor any other creature, 
shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” 


8 


THE FIRST AND FINAL TRUTH 


As some one has said, it is “as if he had got impa- 
tient of the enumeration of impotencies, and hay- 
ing named the outside boundaries in space of the 
created universe, flings, as it were, with one rapid 
toss, into that large room the whole that it can con- 
tain, and triumphs over it all,’ through One who, 
because He is Love, and love never faileth, 


“Spurned the tame laws of Time and Space, 
And brake through all the heavens to our embrace.” 


Ill 


For it was in the Reason, the Word made flesh, 
full of grace and truth, wearing our familiar human 
shape—a babe, a boy, a man—brother to us all living 
in time by the power of an endless life, winsome withal 
and sweetly human—aye, more human than any of us, 
though more divine than all the gods of whom man 
has ever dreamed: it was in the life of Jesus, in His 
dark cross outside the city gate, in His victory over 
death, that St. Paul and his brother mystic found 
the key to the meaning of life and the clue to the 
cosmic riddle. Elsewhere, in a singing sentence in 
which he strikes the same great chord, St. Paul told 
the source and secret of his faith: ‘““God, who com- 
mandeth the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined 
into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge 
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 

Such difference Jesus made and still makes, adding 
a new dimension to life, revealing that to which men 


9 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


entrust their soul here and hereafter; but how can 
such things be? No one knows; it is at once a fact 
and a mystery—a life became a religion, a tragedy 
was transmuted into a theology, and death unfolded 
into a revelation of one vast life that cannot die. What 
can words say, except it be that in a life like our 
own, disinfected of the things that make us hateful 
to ourselves and others, but duplicate of our weariness 
and woe, the “Love that moves the sun and all the 
stars’ found focus and functioned in the life of man, 
dividing time into before and after, and transfiguring 
the weary weight of an unintelligible world with won- 
der, love and joy. Yet how little such words tell, 
since the truth of which they try to speak eludes even 
the magic of poetry. None the less it may be known 
by experience, by the simple of mind, the lowly of 
heart, and such as walk in the way of love. 

Because these things are so; because God is Love, 
He is known only by love, and faith attains reality 
only in love. Not by argument, not by philosophy, 
not by logic linked and strong, useful as these may be 
after their kind, do we win the first and final Truth 
that sets us free from fear and dark Fate, but by such 
love as lived in the life of Jesus, and which He can 
kindle in our hearts, despite the ages that have come 
and gone. How simple, yet how profound it is, be- 
yond our fathoming. The depth and purity of our 
love is the measure of our knowledge of Him whom 
to know aright is life eternal. “Beloved, if God so 
loved us, we ought also to love one another. God is 


10 


THE FIRST AND FINAL TRUTH 


love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, 
and God in him.” If, once more, we add to the simple, 
searching words of St. John the anthem of St. Paul, 
we have the conclusion of the whole matter: 


“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, what- 
soever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, 
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, 
whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any 
virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things. The 
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. 
Amen.” 


V1 


Che Criune Entirety of the Christian Rebelation 


By Garus Guenn ATKINS, D.D., HoYT PROFESSOR OF HOMI- 
LETICS, AUBURN THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY 


“IT am the way, the truth, and the life.” 
—JOHN XIV-6 

ESUS CHRIST had once in His brief hour between 
a supper, and a garden called Gethsemane, to say 
what He could never say again, and if there is any- 
where a text for a sermon like this it is the text from 
which Jesus Himself preached the sermon He could 
preach but once: “I am the Way and the Truth and 

the Lite.” 


*K * *K 


Jesus said these ten words to twelve troubled men 
in a borrowed room in Herod’s Jerusalem. They had 
lived with Him for almost three years in wonderful 
and intimate ways which had been, as all the ways 
of friends are, both outer and inner. The outer ways 
had been immemorial footpaths across the Palestinian 
hills, sun-washed and starlit ways, which the changing 
seasons bordered with grasses and lilies or barley white 
to the harvest, or else they had been ways through 
little villages, neighborly and near, or else highways 
which traders and Roman cohorts used, or else the 


12 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


stone paved streets of Jerusalem. And now these 
outer ways had ended in an upper room. 

The inner ways had also been starlit and sun-washed, 
but with another light. He had led them in paths of 
duty and understanding, and through old forms to new 
realities. He had brought them near to one another 
and strangely near to Him. He had made the unseen 
as real as the hills above Nazareth. Under His guid- 
ance love had taken new form and meanings, good- 
ness had become a luminous ideal and a high com- 
mand, God a brooding fatherly presence who had a 
mind even for birds and flowers, and so much the 
more for His children. He had led them into new 
understandings of their own natures and to mountain 
tops of transfigured vision. He had woven associa- 
tions of power across wind-swept Gennesaret and filled 
the streets of Capernaum with memories of tender- 
ness—and now these ways also were to end. 

And they were ending too soon; nothing was fin- 
ished, either in the lives of the disciples or the enter- 
prise of Jesus Christ. As the supper drew to an end 
the men about the table grew deeply troubled; they 
did not understand the meaning of what they saw and 
heard, they felt the menace in the dark outside, they 
were not even sure of themselves. They had always 
up till then been able to follow and find Him wher- 
ever He went, and now He told them He was on the 
eve of a journey He must take alone. And without 
Him they could see no future nor be sure of any direc- 

ion; they knew only a blind pathlessness of life. 


13 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“Lord we know not whither Thou goest ; how know we 
the way.” 

Then Jesus laid bare the three needs of life for them 
and for us, and offered Himself as the answer: “I am 
the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Here, then, 
is the setting of the text. It was addressed to unper- 
fected discipleships and unfulfilled expectations about 
to be wrecked, it would seem, upon a cross, and grop- 
ing helplessness charged with a mighty enterprise, in 
a word to men like ourselves in a splendid and piteous 
estate. It offers what humanity most needs, and with- 
out which humanity is helpless: A Way for practical 
conduct, the Truth for assurance and understanding, 
Life in the fullness and glory and endlessness of it; 
and it offers all these not as ghostly abstractions, but 
as living realities in the person of Jesus Christ. Here 
is the heart of the Gospel, and the centuries since have 
done nothing, save to supply new illustrations of its 
timeless truth. 


I 


We need first a way of life. 

The word ‘“‘way” is rooted deep in the folk speech 
of our race. It first meant to carry, but since one 
carries a load only to bring it where it ought to be 
“way” became the path the burden-bearer used, then 
the journey itself and the direction of the journey, and 
finally, for the genius of language is always a poet 
to find in simple things a vaster suggestion, it became 
the very course of life. Thereafter, there was no 


14 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


limit to the use and application of it, and yet every 
use of it carries some suggestion of a means to an 
end, whether it be a ship gathering way as her sails 
take the wind, or a man’s will riding down all hin- 
drances, or a way to make a dream come true, or a 
surgeon’s technique, or an engineer’s device, or the 
habit of a soul or a state, or the way of all the earth 
to the dust. Whether, therefore, you take a journey 
or conceive a plan or would carry your burden bravely 
to the end, or ask an understanding of the issues of 
life, or want a road for faith beyond the hills of time, 
you need a way. 
> > > 


We need very greatly a way of dealing with our- 
selves. Life is an affair between rival claimants for 
the throne room of personality. We have, at the best, 
but a little clear inner space of self-knowledge and 
established purpose ringed with shadows, haunted by 
old fears and older instincts. The better part of us 
holds its own precariously against ways—how impos- 
sible to escape that word—which undo the bright 
promise of our humanity and make us of all God’s 
creatures the strangest and most contradictory. 

“We are children of splendor and flame, 
Of shuddering also and tears, 


Magnificent, out of the dust we came 
> And abject from the spheres.” 


What shall we do with ourselves, and what manner 
of men should we be? What disposal shall we make 


- 15 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


of our powers? What shall rule, and what be subject, 
in the realm of personality so anarchical at its worst, 
so capable of splendid order at its best? For what 
shall we spend ourselves, and in the accumulation of 
what treasures shall we find our true wealth? The 
confusion of our own time, with its arresting contra- 
dictions of force and futility, is deeply rooted in our 
want of a sure wise way of dealing with ourselves; 
all confusions begin first of all with those who have 
lost the way in the labyrinthian turns of their own 
inner lives. All our ‘restlessness re-echoes an old, old 
question a little changed but burdened with signifi- 
cance—‘Lord, we know not whither we are going, 
how shall we know the way?” and now, as then, Jesus 
answers: “I am the way.” 

Jesus’ way is the supreme way of the conduct of 
life. He belonged, of course, to His race, His age 
and His land. He was a village craftsman who put 
aside His tools for a divine destiny and wore the sim- 
plicities of His station as a garment. His sandaled 
feet would be ill-shod for our winter roads, and the 
loose structure of the society of His time allowed Him 
a serene aloofness from the cares of this world, which 
we should find it hard to imitate. The imitation of 
Christ lies deeper than that. He was no bond servant 
to sense or things, and His mastery over them was 
not in the barrenness of circumstance, but in the su- 
premacy of the spirit. He disassociated once and for 
all wealth of life from cluttering ownership. He 
permitted wealth to those who were able to subdue 


16 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


it to the uses of the spirit. He forbade it to those 
for whom it had become a tyranny. His supreme con- 
cern was not with things, but with the soul. 

It is no mere coincidence that soul and life are 
interchangeable translations of His key word. The 
soul as He conceived it was no ghostly tenant of a 
house of clay, but a man’s best and most permanent 
self, rich in experience, vibrant with holy passion, 
and so engaged with timeless things as to claim for 
itself an everlasting inheritance. He made the simplest 
life ample through the range of its relationships. He 
saved toil from drudgery by making it a glorious 
service of God and man. He was always busy but 
never driven, and in any weariness He knew and 
sought the unfailing sources of healing rest. A quiet 
and understanding intimacy with Nature breathes 
through all His words. He loved all sorts and con- 
ditions of human folk, and invited himself to be their 
guest. He took the simple pleasure of life as you take 
the friendly turns of a road through a lovely country, 
or rose above them as an aviator draws an arc through 
the sky. 

He moved through all the light and shadow of the 
human estate and yet His own inner life was never 
darkened; He made of the shadows themselves an- 
other glory. He had a sure mastery over circumstance, 
fearing nothing save fear and hating nothing but hate. 
He was always a gentleman, and though He had 
apparently only the learning of His time and station, 
His wisdom was as luminous as the summer sunlight 


17 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


of Galilee and deep as the sky was high. A way of 
life like that is the secret of outer force and inner 
peace. It is established in the great veracities, it has 
found the springs of the enduring happiness, the sov- 
ereignty of it reduces competing enterprises and in- 
terests to their proper proportion, it enforces over all 
the machinery of life, an unfailing obedience to the 
will of God. 

Our own time needs this way of life beyond our 
power to say how much we need it. We have en- 
tangled ourselves in a vast and driving order of our 
own creation, until our force is spent in serving the 
wearing endless need of it, and humanity has become 
too largely a means to an unhuman end. We have 
the stored wealth of the planet for raw material and 
the last subtle energy of it for force, and still miss 
the meaning of the long travail of creation and its 
singing flight through space, because we have been so 
strangely slow to subdue the urgencies of the flesh 
to the necessities of the soul and our wills to the will 
of God. Jesus of Nazareth laid the arresting touch 
of a hand still calloused with toil upon the immensities 
of power and pride with a single question: “What 
doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose 
his own life?”’, and taught us even in the hidden 
places of our own souls the secret of escape and em- 
powerment, when He said, “I am the way.” 


> *K *K 


We need ways of living together. 


18 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


Jesus began with the individual and his values and 
duties, for everything begins there and maybe ends 
there, but the soul is not grown in a vacuum, being 
the creation of comradeships. 

Consider Jesus’ use of singulars and plurals. The 
Beatitudes are all in the plural, for they involve ex- 
periences in which a man can never be alone. Those 
conditions which Jesus undertakes to transmute into 
blessedness are aspects of the inseparable associations 
of humanity, creations of the fret and strain of inter- 
woven life. No one of us ever furnished the entire 
occasion for his own grief. It needs the seas and 
winds of humanity to make a tear, as it needs the 
sea and the wind and the night to make a dewdrop. 
Meekness is a spiritual gleam against a background 
of banked pride, and mercy a gift of the merciful 
spirit to offense and offenders. How shall we make 
peace unless there be the estranged, or return evil 
for good unless evil has been offered first? We are all 
threads in some vast fabric, but the threads are alive 
and the weaving hurts and the color is not a dye 
into which we are dipped, but the native hue of our 
spirits illumining the fabric from within. The whole 
grave music of the Beatitudes is a call to consider 
the blessedness of a human estate in which we may 
suffer and forget ourselves, and contribute to every 
fellowship patience and courage and overcoming love. 

From such beginnings as these, Jesus develops the 
whole massive social ethic of the Gospels, though to 


19 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


call it a social ethic is like finding an equivalent for 
the haunting motifs of the Unfinished Symphony in 
the harmonic vibration of wire and catgut. Jesus was 
not preaching a social Gospel, He was showing en- 
tangled human folk how to live together and putting 
“togetherness”’ into His verbs and nouns because men 
could not live at all and live apart. He uses singulars 
in His great injunctions because duty is the concern 
of the individual, but His duties are individual atti- 
tudes toward social relationships. Qualities which 
seem as sheerly personal as breath and thought rise 
out of association with others; though chastity be the 
very whiteness of a thought, it is the passing look at 
a woman through which the whiteness shines. 

The great Christian attitudes, the force to outlast 
force with gentleness, wear down oppression with tri- 
umphant patience and put out a curse with a blessing 
as rain puts out a forest fire, are social attitudes; a 
love which knows no limit and refuses any exception 
at all until it lies about life like circumambient air 
about the great globe itself, is the imperial Christian 
positive. The quest for food and drink is a comrade’s 
quest; we have no more right to say what shall J eat 
or what shall J drink than to pray My Father which 
art in heaven. And as His teaching reaches its splendid 
culmination, He enjoins us to seek the Kingdom of 
God as though there were no word for the sovereign 
and interwoven inclusiveness of His way of life, save 
the one word whose suggestion of common destiny, 

20 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


glory and power has always ruled the imaginations 
of men. 

Jesus’ way of living together is as right for the 
Twentieth Century as for the First Century, as regnant 
for states meeting as sovereign equals as for a province 
under the bronze heel of Rome. Wherever estranged 
human contacts demand reconciliation and competitive 
interests demand resolution, and the far flung enter- 
prises of our common life ask for a spirit to make 
them wise and humane, and a command high enough 
to make them free and obedient, there Jesus’ way is 
the only way. We have tried every alternative which 
old instinct or new invention can suggest and found 
no issue but an zmpasse or a tragedy. 

For twenty centuries every civilization which in any 
expression of it has taken a way hostile to, or proudly 
scornful of, the way of Jesus has ended beaten or 
undone. Yet we still choose the old roads of self- 
assertion and heady ambition rutted with retreat and 
bloodstained, to the sure and victorious way of Jesus 
Christ. There has been only one road of victorious 
permanence down the centuries: the way of Jesus 
Christ, nor is there any other road across the centuries 
to be. The enormous travail of western civilization 
lends urgency to our dilemma. We have no choice 
but to live together in the way of Jesus Christ or face 
the ultimate collapse of the human order. Still above 
“discordant voices crying aloud at all the crossroads 
of modern civilization their little pride-begotten offers 
of guidance, we hear the one quiet voice to whose 


21 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


divine authority the millenniums bear witness—‘“I am 
the way.” 


*K *K *k 


We need a way of salvation, and there is no road. 
to peace either for the soul or the state, save the way 
of Jesus. We need ways of deliverance and redemp- 
tion. He offers the way of the cross, which is not a 
theology but the way of vicarious love and goodness, 
life paid for, as it has always been and always must 
be, in terms of life, and God Himself sharing the 
bitter cost of the travailing souls of His children 
seeking forgiveness and goodness. We need above all 
a way to God. For unless we find Him near and 
real, and live in the sure sense of His loving power 
over us and His sovereign concern for us, we are 
orphans in a universe which, for all its immensities 
and splendor, is as remote from our haunting loneliness 
as Orion from an aching heart. And now that time 
and space break back toward horizons beyond our 
vision and our little world is lost in a skyey awesome- 
ness where dying constellations drift down the care- 
less cosmic tides, we shall lose God unless we find 
Him in what we can understand, nay, not in stars 
nor laws majestic, though He is there also, but in 
love and goodness claiming our humanity for its in- 
carnate dwelling place, tender in a voice we can hear, 
luminous in a face we can see. 

So Jesus Christ offers Himself to the seekers after 


22 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


God and to all lost in doubt or loveless dark—‘“‘I am 
the way.” 


II 


We need the truth. Our passion for it is a holy 
and quenchless flame, our quest for it has ennobled the 
human enterprise. When I consider how we began, 
in what ignorances and helplessnesses, fearsome and 
perplexed, and how we have made the very stones 
tell us their stories and have weighed and measured. 
the stars and surprised the secrets of hidden life and 
are still unsatisfied, I am moved, more than in any 
other contemplation of the works of man, to cry out 
with the psalmist, ‘““Thou hast made him a little lower 
than God.” But there is always a truth which escapes 
us. It is the truth about ourselves and to what we are 
akin and the assuring meanings of the strange con- 
tradictions of our human estate, and what destinies 
we approach as the ultimate shadow falls across the 
little landscape of our lives. 

Our need of truth is like our need of light upon 
the way. You cannot confidently use even a good 
road in the dark. Truth is seeing life steadily and 
seeing it whole, as you see a landscape on a June day, 
everything in order, and beautiful and right. Facts 
are not enough, they are but steps to climb by, and 
till they lead us to the source their service is un- 
finished. Each realm of knowledge needs another for 
its interpretation. Philosophy with its short gleams of 
guess and understanding begins where science leaves 


23 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


off, and religion meets philosophy, just when the wisest 
confess themselves baffled and the pride of intellect 
surrenders to the mystery of life. Jesus never offers 
Himself as the lesser truth, which is in our power to 
discover. He is not science nor history nor any social 
theory—I wonder sometimes if He is even the theology 
and the orthodoxies of the churches. He was the 
truth about God in the luminous range of His teach- 
ing, which is, in its sure apprehension of the Divine 
nature, unapproached and unapproachable. His doc- 
trine of God, though His sense of His Father’s near- 
ness was no doctrine at all, needs no correction. It 
is ample enough to contain any contribution of truth 
from every source; no matter what the future may 
reveal of vaster sciences and profounder philosophies 
and demanding and sensitive ethics, the God of Jesus 
Christ will maintain His sovereignty over faith. He 
was and is the truth about God also in His revela- 
tion of the Father’s fullness in Himself. His was more 
than a shrine in which God dwelt, He was a reality 
in which God was, and you could say of Him, “If 
God should come amongst us, He would love as Jesus 
loved and teach as He taught and serve as He served 
and lighten our darkness with a quenchless glory as 
Jesus did.” 

He was the truth about man. We may justly won- 
der what we were meant to be, for humanity has been 
everything from the clay to the saint and we have 
chosen from amongst us such as might a little typify 
an ideal humanity, with strange caprice. Our marbles 


24 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


and bronzes commemorate the conqueror and the 
martyr, the poet and the artist, the navigators of sea 
and sky, often the ruler, and sometimes the servant. 
Our halls of fame are emblazoned with names which 
are the recitative of greatness, yet of whom in all these 
shining lists could it be said, ““There was and is the 
Truth, the shadowless splendor of life’? 

But Jesus was the Truth. He was the interpret- 
ing and illuminating truth which gives meaning to 
the whole of experience. He was the truth in the 
wholeness and holiness of His life, in the sure sanity 
of His mind, in His patience and His courage and 
His deeper-than-sureness of God. 

He was the truth incarnate, for there is no truth 
like living truth. The knower is always more than 
his knowledge, the doer than his deed, and until the 
Word becomes flesh and lives amongst us, it 1s a ghost 
or a dream; we see this even amongst ourselves. The 
test of any life is its degree of right approximation 
to living truth. Some men are lies, being nothing at 
all they seem to be, and some are delusions with only 
a show of reality, and some are little pitiable half- 
truths. Some are pride or passion. Some are greed 
or folly, cruelty or beast. Twelve men were gathered 
together about Him there in that upper room. Was 
any one of them the truth? Or were Annas and Cai- 
phas plotting against Him with hard faces and harder 
souls, or Pilate consenting to His death? Were they 
the truth about life and man and God? But Jesus 
was the truth. 


25 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


There, there in that Upper Room, so poor He left 
nothing for those who nailed Him to the cross but 
an old garment, so spent He would not presently have 
strength to bear His cross, self-vowed to a shameful 
death and holding even His handful of friends by 
frayed cords soon to be broken, there was the Truth. 
The truth that the values of the soul are the endur- 
ing values, the truth that goodness may transfigure 
clay, the truth that courage is true and fears are shad- 
ows, the truth that love is the only regnancy, the truth 
that God may own and fill a personality, until a Naz- 
arene carpenter may become Immanuel—God with us. 
Would you know how nobly life can be lived in 
straitened circumstances, would you know how duty 
can arm a soul with a force to rise above every dread, 
and courage make light of agony, and three loving 
years justify the travail of creation and an imperial 
spirit claim the eternal for its portion, read the truth 
in that life, and having known it make your own 
lives the re-writing of it. 

You may then live as we all live in manifold un- 
certainties, but you will have in yourself a knowledge 
of life and its meanings and its issues against which 
doubt and fear will break as wind-driven clouds 
against the escarpments of Mt. Blanc. 

“T am the way and the truth and the life.” 


Ill 


Each of these great affirmations meets a supreme 
need,—ways are for the traveler, truth is for the seeker, 


26 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


but life? Are we not living now, how is Jesus the 
life? 

This is being written of a June morning light 
washed and lyric. Suppose you had never seen a tree 
in leaf, nor any blossoms nor grass nor wheattfields 
billowed by the wind, but only bare trees stark against 
stormy skies and the grey hills and sodden fields of 
March. What would you know of the life of Nature? 
“Tf this is life,” you would have said in March, “there 
is nothing here to charge that word with mystery 
and meaning. If this is life, show me death and tell 
me how they differ?” 

The sun and the season made their answer,—they 
washed the greys with greens till the hillsides lived 
again, and starred sheltered banks with shy anemone 
and set the dandelions’ prodigal gold among the 
grasses. They made the tree tops wraiths of misty 
green and turned the mists to leaves half open and 
touched them for a day with colors from last autumn’s 
palette, and made them darker green again and spread 
them more amply to make their shadows grateful. In 
blessed steadfast ways each bud and earth-held thing 
fulfilled its promise until at last, life triumphant, 
beauty out of barrenness, warmth out of coldness, 
music out of silence, a tide out of the infinite, made 
all our mother world its own with ecstasy akin to tears 
and loveliness beyond a poet’s song. 

“Spirit immortal of mortality, 


Imperishable faith, calm miracle 
Of resurrection, truth no tongue can tell, 


27 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


No brain conceive,—now witnessed utterly 
In this New Testament of earth and sea.” 


This is life. It is the way of God with marred and 
sleeping things, the golden ripening of the harvest, 
a power to heal a wound and make a clod a color and 
a fragrance. 

“T am come that they might have life.” Here is 
the answer of Jesus Christ to the ultimate need, the 
quenchless hunger of the unperfect soul. There is no 
urge of ours nor any action which is not a quest for 
life. Lindbergh drawing his are across the sky from 
continent to continent, Mallory and Irvine lost on the 
last storm-possessed crest of Mt. Everest and “when 
last seen going strong for the top,” the trader planning 
his deals, the scholar reading the records of old Assyria 
—flaming youth keeping time to jazz and cautious age 
plodding toward the shadow—all, all are seeking life. 
In old ways and new, in possessions and understanding, 
in toil and pleasure, by roads of tragedy and splendor, 
scourging the flesh or staining the soul, stretching lame 
hands of faith toward God half guessed or sure in 
mystic fellowship with Him, 


“Tis life whereof our nerves are scant 
Oh life nor death for which we pant 
More life and fuller than we have.” 


(Tam ahewite? 

Jesus’ gift of life is in the way He offers, since life 
is an attainment gained by right methods directed 
toward worthy ends. Its glowing fullnesses of experi- 


28 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


ence cost disciplines and obediences. We were never 
made to let the body usurp the kingdom of the spirit 
and become an end and not a subject agent, nor to be 
conformed to easy ways. No more do we keep our 
rendezvous with life in selfish ways or sinful. Hating 
is not living nor fear and, by the divinest contradic- 
tion in all life’s wonder, we do not live at all unless 
we spend ourselves in loving. What we are and have 
is always a treasure to be used in God’s market places 
for the purchase of another treasure. The cross itself 
is wood aflame with redeeming love dying that men 
may live. This is Jesus’ way and if we fear it we shall 
lose even the little we have of it. If we trust it we 
shall find it the way of life. 

The truth which Jesus was and is is life-giving 
truth. Some truth, though right, is strangely sterile. 
But there is a truth which transfigures every deed and 
sustains us in every endeavor and assures us in every 
sad estate. No human being has ever lived in the 
light of the entire revelation of Jesus Christ without 
coming thereby into a fullness of life which is the 
answer to all questing restlessnesses. Life is always 
also created by life. I would not press the analogies 
of the meadow and the seed bed too far. I would turn 
to another region. Most of us would trace the begin- 
ning of the highest in our lives to contact with some 
enkindling personality. There are always those who, by 
the grace of God, are so abounding in knowledge or 
vision or high passion as to change all they touch. They 
not only reveal but they empower, and having known 


29 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


them we can no more go in old ignoble ways than a 
meadow can fail to answer the summons of June. 

How they do it does not so much matter. Some- 
times their words are live coals off the altar or their 
deeds a challenge not to leave us cold. More often 
still what they are, needing no words to tell it but 
only the radiation of its grace and beauty, shames us 
into imitation and wakens powers we did not dream 
we owned till their influence took and changed us. And 
in this life-enkindling power Jesus stands alone. 


“A star to which, as to a fountain, 
Other stars returning 
In their golden urns draw light.” 


By His grace and gifts the weak have become strong 
and the stained have lost their earthiness, the undone 
have been reéstablished in hope and power, and the 
graces of Christian character have been made nobly 
manifest in lives which without Him would have been 
spent amongst the shadows and lost at last in the 
dust. The life which Jesus was and offers makes no 
terms even with death; it belongs to the enduring, it is 
itself the enduring. “Life,” said Thomas Carlyle, 
sadly, “is a little gleam between two eternities.” 
“Life,” said Jesus Christ, triumphantly—and He dem- 
onstrated His certainty in His own victory over death 
—“‘is a gleam of the eternal beyond the power of death 
to quench.”” Life as He reveals and bestows it is ample 
enough for love to possess its own without any fear of 
ultimate loss, and hope to shine down endless mount- 


30 


ENTIRETY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION 


ing roads and faith to look unchallenged across the 
hills of time. 


> >K *K 


This, then, is the sermon I would preach if I had 
but one to preach, and when I had finished I would 
ask those who heard it to forget how slight a thing it 
was, for the splendor of the words of Jesus which any 
sermon can only darken, since they were meant to 
illumine, not a printed page, but the lives of those 
for whom, without them, there would be no light at 
all: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” 


31 


Can J Beliebe in Goo? 


By Witu1aM Pierson Merrity, D.D., BRICK PRESBYTERIAN 
CHURCH, NEW YORK 


“Believe in God; believe also in me.” 
—JOHN XIV—I 


AN I believe in God? 

Some time ago a man with whom I was talking 
looked me squarely in the eye and said: “I don’t 
really know whether I believe there is a God or not.” 
There was just a shade of defiance in his manner, a bit 
of over-emphasis. Perhaps he thought that, being a 
minister, I would be shocked. Of course I was not. 
No Christian should be shocked when any honest man 
gives frank expression to anything he honestly thinks. 
Would to God more people told the exact truth when 
they talk to ministers! But I was deeply interested. 
This man was one who had had unusual opportunities, 
a thorough education, a Christian home, the best of 
influences about him. I happen to know that he prays, 
attends church regularly, and is faithful in the dis- 
charge of all common religious duties. The incident 
set me to wondering how many there may be, right 
inside the church itself, who would find it hard to pro- 
fess with utter honesty a thorough-going belief in God. 
I am talking to such now. 


22 


CAN I BELIEVE IN GOD? 


Can I believe in God? Where is He? What is 
He? How can I be sure of Him? How much of 
what preachers and poets say of Him is real, and how 
much is just beautiful myth and fairy tale, pleasant to 
believe, but unable to stand the test of fact? In one 
of his delightful scenes, Barrie shows us a Scottish lad, 
a student from Aberdeen University, acting as guide 
to a party visiting an island where fairies are popu- 
larly supposed to live. He shows some reluctance to 
step ashore, and they ask him, in merry mockery, “Do 
you believe in fairies?” He answers, “When the 
cold light of reason plays about me in Aberdeen, I 
don’t believe in fairies. But here” . | wonder how 
many there are who have a haunting sense of a dim 
presence, a kind of wonder if God is real, when they 
sit in a church amid hallowed association, with music 
and worship and confident words from the pulpit, but 
lose that sense of God’s reality when the cold light 
of facts begins to play upon them in the great, busy 
world outside! 

No one of us is fair to the soul of our time, or to the 
men and women who are alive today, who fails to 
appreciate how hard it is for thoughtful people to 
have a real, satisfying faith in the Unseen God. Many 
causes combine to make it hard to believe, too many 
for us even to take time to name them. Below them 
all is the one great, overwhelming fact, that our sense 
of the universe, of its immensity, and our nothingness, 
is utterly different from that which men had in days 
when the stars were lamps hung in the earth’s vaulted 


33 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ceiling. All the vast expansion of modern science, and 
the rush of philosophy to keep pace with it, all the 
development of psychology which tempts us to reduce 
religion to subjective processes, these and other facts 
or factors of our day intensify enormously the prob- 
lem of belief. Rightly seen and handled they make 
faith more sure. But they are being wrongly handled 
by many attractive teachers. Moreover when religion 
and theology would expand to match the growth of 
knowledge, a host of good little souls clutch fran- 
tically at them and hold them back, crying out that 
religion is lost if it changes its clothes. 

Can I believe in God? 

This is the deepest of all religious questions. Fun- 
damentally, faith in God is what men need, what 
we must have, if we are to have our religion, and 
live our life. What can an honest preacher say to 
an honest doubter about this most basic of all 
questions ? 

First of all, I say, Be sure you ask the question in 
the right way. Can I believe in God? Not must 1? 
You approach the matter wrongly when you demand 
irresistible proof. You are right to demand that 
God come to you with a sense of reality. What you 
want is belief, not make-believe. But you have no 
right to ask for more than evidence, or argument, or 
proof of whatever sort, sufficient to give you the right 
to believe in God. Spite of doubts, and difficulties, 
and dark areas, and blind spots, can I honestly believe 
in God? ‘That is the question. It implies that you 


34 


CAN I BELIEVE IN GOD? 


want to believe, if you can honestly. Why not? 
Who that was in his right mind ever preferred doubt 
to: faith?) 

Get the question thus by the right end, and the 
answer may begin to take shape. The next step is 
to ask, what do you mean by the word “God”? It 
is a name for Some One, something, is it not? What 
is the reality you are trying to describe by the use of 
that name? 

That simple inquiry touches the heart of the dif- 
ficulty in many cases. The man of whom I spoke at 
the outset, whose statement of doubt about God 
started my thoughts along this line, was a little per- 
plexed, perhaps a little surprised, when I replied by 
asking him what he meant by the word “God.” It 
did not take long to discover that he thought I, and 
other preachers, believed in a sort of mysterious Being, 
sitting somewhere in the Heavens, ready to do all 
sorts of strange, inexplicable things, a kind of glori- 
fied Big Man. 

It is not strange that he thought so. We have to 
picture God to ourselves as like ourselves. The cen- 
tral article of Christian faith is that when God would 
show us what He really is, He did it through a human 
being. One of the wisest words ever spoken is John 
Fiske’s saying, ‘““ITo every sound form of theism an 
anthropomorphic element is indispensable.” Putting 
that in common language it means that, if we are to 
think of God at all in any real way, we must think 
of Him as like the spirit of man. 


35 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Yet the question whether or no one believes in God 
goes far deeper than that. We know that God is not 
just ‘“‘an infinite Lord Shaftesbury,” as Matthew Ar- 
nold keenly expressed it. We have to think of Him 
in that way, but He is far beyond our thoughts. No 
intelligent Christian believer would now say that 
faith in God means a belief that somewhere sits Some 
One on a throne, Whom we might see if we could get 
near enough. The mind of today rightly casts off 
such childishness. 

This is the real matter at issue, is it not?—-What 
are we to think of that ultimate reality with which 
we have to do? What is the final, basic truth about 
the nature of things? What lies back of all this 
which we call life, its true cause, its truest explana- 
tion? ‘That is the real question about God. What 
I say in answer to that decides whether I am a be- 
liever or an unbeliever in God. 

There are three attitudes one can take toward that 
ultimate reality, or source, or explanation of things. 
Oh, of course there are many more, an infinite num- 
ber of shades of thought and belief and fancy. But 
on the whole it is true that men and women of today 
fall into three classes, take one of three positions. 
They are agnostics, or materialists, or theists. 

It is easy to be an agnostic. It is fashionable to be 
an agnostic, though it is becoming less so. But, like 
most easy and fashionable courses, it is unworthy. 
The religious agnostic dodges the issue, instead of 
meeting it. 


36 


CAN I BELIEVE IN GOD? 


Words of course are tricky things. There is an ag- 
nosticism which is worthy and true, a reverent con- 
fession of the littleness of our minds, and of the deep 
and unfathomable mystery that lies all around us. 
But the agnosticism I have in mind is that which 
says dogmatically, “God is unknowable, and there- 
fore I will stop thinking of Him or taking Him into 
the account.” It shows itself practically in the con- 
viction that it is a waste of time and breath to try 
to get at the truth about God; and that therefore 
religion is of slight practical importance. 

This is the fault I find with that sort of agnostic,— 
that he does not go far enough. He makes an ar- 
bitrary distinction. He acts with regard to religious 
truth as he would not dream of acting with regard 
to other truth. The thorough-going agnostic would 
not only give up religion; he would abandon science, 
and every attempt to know; he would just sit in the 
shadow of all-surrounding mystery, saying, “I don’t 
know,” to every fact and duty and interest. 

In a great, majestic sense God zs unknowable. But 
so is all ultimate truth. Who knows what life is, 
what electricity is, what matter is, what person- 
ality is? 

“We walk in a world where no man reads the riddle of things 
that are.” 


But this is what sensible men do, in any and every 
part of life, when baffled by their inability to know 
the ultimate truth: they make what scientists call a 


37 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“working hypothesis.” That is, they form an zdea of 
what that ultimate reality may be, an idea that har- 
monizes as fully as possible with known facts, and 
then they act as if the unknown reality were really 
like that idea. Why not do that in religion, as well 
as in other parts of our thinking and living? In 
order to right living, in order to give force and valid- 
ity to our moral standards, in order to go through life 
with some comfort and joy and assurance, in order 
to give full value to our spiritual assets, to faith and 
hope and love and righteousness, we need a working 
idea of the nature of ultimate reality. Because we 
need it, we take it and use it with confidence, just as 
the scientist uses his idea of light, or electricity, or of 
the atom. Without his hypothesis, he could have no 
science. Without our idea of God, we could have 
no religion. We need religion, as we need science. 
And the idea, or hypothesis, is as necessary and as re- 
liable in the one case as in the other. 

So much for the Agnostic. The real issue of faith 
is between the other two attitudes, between the Ma- 
terialist and the Theist. I wish, we could use the 
word “Spiritualist” as the antithesis of “Material- 
ist.’ I wish that word had not become popularly 
identified with tricks done in the dark. 

This is the real question about God: which is the 
ultimate reality, the final explanation of things, the 
true source and meaning of life, impersonal matter, 
or personal spirit? Which is the better, truer way 
to think of that which lies back of life, and accounts 


38 


CAN I BELIEVE IN GOD? 


for what it is? Is all of life just a manifestation 
of force? The mind of Shakespeare, the soul of Lin- 
coln, the thoughts of Plato, the music of Beethoven, 
the spirit of Jesus,—are these just by-products of the 
working of chemical and physical forces? Has all 
the wonder of love and beauty and joy and unselfish- 
ness come to be through “the fortuitous concourse 
of atoms’?® Can the love of the mother for her child, 
of the patriot for his country, of Christ for His own, 
be accounted for reasonably and sufficiently by the 
laws of chemical and physical action and reaction? 

Or is personality the ultimate reality and power 
and glory of the world? Despite all that seems at 
strife with it, the pull of the senses, the absence of 
laboratory tests, the presence of evil and cruelty and 
seeming stupidity and aimlessness in the very proc- 
esses of life, in spite of it all,—does not the personal 
still stand out so glorious, so sure, so unapproach- 
able, that nothing less than personality can account 
for things as they are? Is it not more credible to 
hold that all the wonder of this universe of law, all 
the beauty, and truth, and goodness, and with it all 
the dirt and slime and scum, account for its presence 
as we may, came out of something like our thought 
and intelligence, our will and freedom, our love and 
vision, than that all the charm and loveliness and 
vivid reality of the personal came by a sort of magic 
good luck out of a blind man’s buff of mechanical 
forces? 


39 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Alfred Noyes puts it well in his noble epic poem, 
“Watchers of the Sky,” when he makes Kepler say, 


“Even your Atheist builds his doubt 

On that strange faith; destroys his heaven and God 
In absolute faith that his own thought is true 

To law, God’s lantern to our stumbling feet; 

And so, despite himself, he worships God, 

For where true souls are, there are God and heaven. 
And yet—to hear 

Those wittols talk, you’d think you’d but to mix 

A bushel of good Greek letters in a sack 

And shake them roundly for an age or so, 

To pour the Odyssey out. At last I told 

Those disputants what my wife had said, one night, 
When I was tired and all my mind a-dust, 

With pondering on their atoms. I was called 

To supper, and she placed before me there 

A most delicious salad. ‘It would appear’ 

I thought aloud, ‘that if these pewter dishes, 
Green hearts of lettuce, terragon, slips of thyme, 
Slices of hard-boiled egg, and grains of salt, 

With drops of water, vinegar and oil, 

Had in a bottomless gulf been flying about 

From all eternity, one sure certain day 

The sweet invisible hand of Happy Chance 

Would serve them as a salad.’ 

‘Likely enough,’ 
My wife replied, ‘but not so good as mine.’ ”’ 


There it is! If man’s intelligence can do so much, 
range so far, must not that out of which he has come 
be at least great enough to account for his thought? 
If love is so much the greatest thing in the world, 
can the cause and nature and ultimate explanation of 


Ke) 


CAN I BELIEVE IN GOD? 


the world be less than loving? If personality is the 
best I know, dare I call God less? And if I do not 
call Him personal, I call Him something less. For 
there is nothing greater or better by which we may call 
Him. 

Now this is what we need to know and see clearly, 
that, in the last analysis, the question whether one 
believes in God is answered by the view he takes of 
the ultimate reality of things. If one believes that 
intangible, spiritual assets are more valuable than all 
outward things, that personality is incomparably above 
mechanism, that beauty, truth, and goodness are the 
real goods of life, that man is a spirit and not a mere 
intricate machine, then he believes in God, or at any 
rate is ready to believe in God. For it is utterly incon- 
sistent to be a materialist and yet put love first. 
“Where love is, there God is also.” To believe in 
the supremacy of the spiritual is to have a real faith 
in God. 

They are bound together, God and the soul, God 
and beauty, God and truth, God and goodness, God 
and the personal values of living. If these are real, 
God is real. If God is a delusion, then these are 
delusions. Of all amazing follies, of all incredible 
egotisms, what one can be greater than that which 
sets man’s soul all alone, alone intelligent, alone good, 
in a mechanical universe? Bertrand Russell is a ereat 
mathematician. But when he declares, on the sheer 
evidence of the senses, that man’s “origin, his growth, 
his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but 


Al 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


the outcome of accidental collocation of atoms; that 
all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the 
inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius 
are destined to extinction in the vast depth of the solar 
system’’ ;—when he says that, he is a poor, pitiful fool, 
like Plato’s cave-man, dwelling amid shadows and 
refusing to believe in the light. How keen and sharp 
is the sarcasm in the words which Henry Adams makes 
the materialist use in addressing his real god, the 
dynamo: 


“Be you matter, be you mind, 
We think we know that you are blind, 
And we alone are good.” 


“We alone are good.” What an insult to the 
Maker and Cause of all! Shall the thing made deny 
prevision and skill to the mind and hand that has 
made it? 

A man once told me of how he struggled with doubt 
when his little child was taken by death. A devout 
friend said something to him about seeing his dear one 
araine | ses, he answered, (77,0 see him again, 
Surprised and shocked, his friend asked, “But do you 
doubt i027? wT didiidoubt ithe said, \ and I went 
off by myself and faced that doubt. I said to myself 
‘I want the truth, and nothing else.’ Then I said to 
my doubt, ‘Very well, I will take you as the truth. I 
shall never see him again. ‘That is all over forever. 
Death ends it all. Then there is no God and Father. 
Love is not the ultimate reality. Then, my love for 


42 


CAN I BELIEVE IN GOD? 


my child was a delusion. But, O God, I know I love 
my child. I know that is part of the best that is in 
me. I know that is real, whatever else is in doubt.’ 
And,” said he, “with that, faith came flooding back, 
and J saw that God is, and that He is love. I could 
not live with my doubt. I could not live without that 
faith 


Can I believe in God? You do not have to. Noth-— 


ing can compel you to believe in Him. There’s not an 
argument that cannot be doubted, not a fact that has 
not a counter fact. But woven in with that belief in 
God are all the sweet, tender, glorious values of hu- 
man life. And because we cannot live without these, 
we cannot live without God. 

I know little about electricity. I go to an Edison, 
a Pupin, and what he tells me confuses rather than 
enlightens. Nay, these men themselves confess they 
do not know what electricity is. But I enter my home, 
and, if the hall is dark, I press a button and radiance 
is all around me because I use what these men have 
found out. The unknown, the unknowable, is light- 
ing my home. I do not know what God is. I go to 
the Theologians, and what they say confuses rather 
than enlightens. Nay, the wisest of them confess 
how little they know, how their definitions break down. 
But in the dark, I turn to God in the simplest, best 
ways men have found for bringing Him near and 
making Him real; I call Him “Father,” as Jesus tells 
me to do; and light shines; and 


43 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“Out of darkness come the hands 
That reach through nature, moulding men.” 


Here, O men and women who would serve well your 
world, here is the battle-ground on which must be 
fought out today the good fight of faith, here in the 
conflict between those who say that the physical is 
the only real and those who hold that the spiritual is 
the supreme reality. We must believe in God, with 
all the strength of our souls. And we must believe 
in God for the same reason that makes the scientist 
believe in the laws of nature, and the mathematician 
in his axioms,—that he cannot do without them. That 
which is necessary to make goodness valid, and beauty 
deathless, and truth sure, and love real, and life a 
spiritual experience rather than a mechanical process, 
has a right to command our full, glad faith. And 
God, the Living God, Whom we know in life and in 
the Bible, claims our faith because we cannot do with- 
out Him, because the supreme realities fade into un- 
realities without Him. 

There is more. There is Christ. ‘Believe in God; 
believe also in me.” If God is to make very sure to 
us that He is personal, how can He do it really, fully, 
perfectly, save through personality? What can more 
conclusively and triumphantly confirm our faith that 
God is wisdom and love and spirit,—more like us 
than like anything else that He has made, than the 
appearing in history of one in whom all the best that 
is in humanity comes to ideal expression, in whom 


AA 


CAN I BELIEVE IN GOD? 


we see personality in its richest, fullest, most perfect 
demonstration? It is through faith in Him that we 
come most surely to faith in God. “I am the way, 
the truth, and the life.” That is what He says, and 
we know it is true. He who is Son of Man and Son 
of God, truly one with us, gloriously one with God, 
what we would be if we could, what we would know 
if we could know God, says to us, “He that hath seen 
me, hath seen the Father.’”’ He who has seen Christ, 
has seen goodness, love, personality, at their highest. 
And he who has seen goodness, love, personality, at 
their highest, has seen God. There our souls may rest, 
able to face life with serene confidence, and to “endure 
as seeing Him Who is invisible.” 


Christ, Priest and Victim 


By His Eminence Wititam Carpinat O’CoNNELL, 
ARCHBISHOP OF BOSTON 


1 THIS age of unbelief, when men’s spiritual eyes 

have shrunk to the dimensions of the eyes of their 
body, and reason, human and finite, dares to measure 
and confine the limits of the mercy and power of a 
God whose name is Infinite, it is indeed a pleasant 
thought to consider that our Church, the Catholic 
Church, is at least one organization that sets its foot 
upon the serpent of incredulity and raising its banner 
of faith high over the petty pennants of conflicting 
sects whose motto is “I think,” she unfurls its colors 
to the gaze of men and angels with one word indelible 
and brightly emblazoned upon it, “I believe.” 

Speak of God to a man of our times who is versed 
in the fashionable scepticism of the day, and he shrugs 
his shoulders and mumbles something about the un- 
knowable and the unknown. But the Catholic to 
whom that Name is sacred feels in the depths of his 
soul the sacredness of the thought of his Creator, his 
Father. This is faith. Tell your rationalist of the 
story of the Incarnation of God’s son, and His suffer- 
ings for our redemption, and the only heights to 
which his soul arises is six feet from the earth; he 


46 


CHRIST, PRIEST AND VICTIM 


speaks of the perfect type of humanity which Christ 
represented. Nothing more. But at the mention of 
Christ’s Sacred Name, the Catholic bows his head 
and his soul is filled with anguish at the bare thought 
of Calvary, and with supreme gratitude as the scene 
of the resurrection succeeds the awful death on the 
Cross at Golgotha. This again is faith. Speak to 
yon enlightened reasoner of the nineteenth century of 
prayer and reparation for sin, and in his pity for your 
weakmindedness he will endeavor to conceal the smile 
that rises upon his lips, and he will remind you that 
the age of superstition has gone by. But the Catholic 
recalls with fervor those hours of holy commune with 
his God, when as he knelt with bowed head and broken 
spirit before the altar of sacrifice he knew that he was 
near his God, he felt the calm of His Presence and 
the sweet soft tones of forgiveness in his ear, and the 
healing balm of His forgiving touch upon his soul. 
He recalls the sight of his Sacramental Lord in the 
Sacred Host raised high above his head, as in a voice 
that goes out from his innermost heart he cries out, 
“Receive, O God, this pure oblation in the remission 
of my manifold sins.” This is faith, sublime faith, 
that, thank God, still holds sway in our Holy Church, 
and which, like a beautiful flower, amid the thick rank 
growth of stunted weeds, appears from its very sur- 
rounding only the more beautiful, the more radiant, 
the more fragrant. 

As we belong to that Church we must have faith— 
faith in the word of God, faith in His truthful prom- 


47 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ises, faith in the unseen presence of Him who guides 
our steps and leads us by the hand through time to 
eternity. As the organs of the body so the faculties 
of the soul need exercise in order to bring them to 
maturity of strength and development. That exercise 
as Christians we are bound to give our spiritual facul- 
ties, for as St. Paul says, the just live by faith. In 
every action of our lives, in every season of our ex- 
istence, we have ample field for the use of the powers 
of our soul. In the blossoming of the fields, besides 
the laws of nature that regulate the growth of plants, 
which is all that the scientist sees, the Christian rec- 
ognizes the prime Giver of increase and plenty. In 
the heavenly motion of the spheres, besides the laws 
that govern the movements of the stars and planets 
which the astronomer teaches, the Christian beholds 
revealed the finger of God that governs the universe: 
Besides nature, the hidden truths of religion claim our 
faith. The same Person that walks in the streets of 
lowly Galilee is called by the Jews’ and Pharisees, 
Jesus the son of Joseph the carpenter, and by those 
from whose eyes have fallen the scales of unbelief 
Jesus the Son of God. Even as the God-Man hangs 
upon the gibbet on Calvary, on one side is the unbe- 
liever, the thief who sees only the fellow culprit, and 
on the other, the believer, the one who sees the innocent 
victim, the world’s Redeemer under the guise of a 
malefactor. The Divinity veiled under the Humanity 
of Christ called forth the exercise of faith of those 
with whom He dwelt, and today we too recognize in 


48 


CHRIST, PRIEST AND VICTIM 


the humble Nazarene the God that made us and the 
Saviour that redeemed us. Surer than the testimony 
of sense, clearer than the light that makes things vis- 
ible to mortal eyes, more certain than the knowledge 
that comes to us by sight or touch, we know that God 
is Man, and that the Almighty, that He might lift 
up man, assumed our humanity. ‘This is the-victory 
that overcomes the world—our Faith. 

If our faith is called forth into action, if our belief 
in God is roused from its dormant state in our souls 
into active exercise by the consideration of Christ 
offering Himself for man on Calvary, much more is 
it stimulated by the consideration of that same sacri- 
fice on the altar in the Mass, which is but the repeti- 
tion of the Crucifixion. ‘The Priest is the same, the 
Victim is the same. Christ on the first Good Friday 
raised between earth and heaven, between man and 
God, stretched out His arms over the world and cried 
to His heavenly Father, “Receive, O God, this sacri- 
fice and forgive mankind its sin.” On the Altar Christ 
too, as He is raised on high in mystic oblation, repeats 
the self-same words: ‘Behold me, Father, a pure 
sacrifice to thy Justice. Blot out the sins of Thy 
people and forget their iniquities against Thy Holy 
Name.” 

Therefore at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we 
may exercise our faith even more meritoriously than 
if we had been witnesses of the Crucifixion. For there, 
as St. Thomas says, the Divinity was concealed under 
the Humanity. But that same humanity had worked 


49 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


such miracles as would have convinced any one but 
the wrong-hearted and blinded Jews. Whereas in 
the Sacrifice of the Mass, both Divinity and Humanity 
are veiled under the humble appearances of bread 
and wine, and we hear only the words of Christ echoed 
through nineteen centuries, “This is my Body. This 
is my Blood,” and we believe the words because He 
who speaks them 1s the All-Holy God. 

With the eyes of our souls, therefore, well opened 
to the light of this saving faith, let us consider what 
is this act of worship which we call the Mass. It is 
a Sacrifice. Since sacrifice implies the immolation . 
to God of some offering by one consecrated to act as 
mediator between heaven and earth, we must seek 
therefore in the Mass, who is the priest, who is our 
mediator, and what is the victim that He offers? 
Who is He who, vested with our humanity, raises His 
consecrated hands to God in supplication for our 
sins? Jesus Christ, the anointed of the Father, the 
great High Priest from whose priesthood all others 
derive their efficacy and power; Jesus Christ, the only 
begotten of the All-Holy God, who at the moment of 
His conception became King, Priest, and Victim; Jesus 
Christ, upon whom the Father poured out the oil of 
sacerdotal power and the ointment of eternal priest- 
hood, saying to Him, “Thou art a priest forever, ac- 
cording to the order of Melchisedec.’’ As Melchisedec 
offered the sacrifice of bread and wine, so Christ the 
great High Priest offers daily upon our altar the Sac- 
tifice of Infinite value that veils itself under the ap- 


5O 


CHRIST, PRIEST AND VICTIM 


pearance of bread and wine. In the chaste womb of 
His Virgin Mother, as in the chosen Temple of God, 
by the ordinance of God, and by the divine hand of 
the Eternal in the very act of the Incarnation, He 
was constituted the head, the representative, the priest 
of the human race, to govern, to teach it in all things 
that appertain to God and to offer up to the adorable 
Trinity in the name of the human race, for its salva- 
tion and happiness, a sacrifice truly worthy, an accep- 
table act of adoration, thanksgiving and redemption. 

Once upon Calvary He performed the great func- 
tions of His office, as the light faded from His eyes, 
as a shiver of death shook His wounded frame, and 
in the last anguish of more than mortal agony He 
cried, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” The 
Crucifixion was the Great High Mass, from which 
all others have their efficacy. 

Surely as the Sacrifice of the Cross was sufficient to 
blot out the stains upon the souls of all mankind from 
Adam down to the last man that shall live upon this 
earth, just so surely is the Sacrifice of the Altar suf- 
ficient to apply the merits of that first Sacrifice to the 
needs of the individual sinner. 

Moreover, as the merits of the Sacrifice of Calvary 
were infinite, those of the Mass are no less so; for the 
Priest is Christ, and the Victim is Christ, and Christ 
is infinite God, and infinite Saviour. There is noth- 
ing wanting in the gift that is offered upon the Altar: 
it 1s perfect with the perfection of God Himself, and 
He who offers it is no mere human being. The priest 


51 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


that we see at the Altar is, it is true, the minister of 
Christ, and represents Him before the eyes of the 
people. He prepares the offering for the sacrifice; 
he stands before the people and for the people, in 
God’s name; he invites them to join with him in beg- 
ging God to prepare them and him for the august 
mysteries; he places the bread upon the altar and the 
wine in the sacred chalice—that bread and wine soon 
to become only the veil of the Living Christ, God and 
Man, hiding Him from our mortal eyes which could 
not, except in Heaven, look upon Him and live. 

Then at the solemn moment in the silence, the hu- 
man priest pronounces the awful words over the ele- 
ments, and now no more is the man the chief minis- 
trant, but Jesus Christ Himself is here, Body and 
Soul and Divinity. Christ stands at the altar between 
you and God; between your sins and God’s justice; 
between your weakness and God’s strength. There 
He stands as really as the human priest that is visible 
to your natural eyes: invisible to us, but visible glori- 
ously to the myriads of Saints and Angels who in His 
Sacred Presence sing the rapturous hymn of everlast- 
ing praise—‘‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts; 
Heaven and earth are filled with Thy Glory: Hosanna 
in the highest.” 

He Himself comes to offer sacrifice; for what man is 
worthy of his own merits to stand as Mediator before 
the Eternal All-Holy God, except Him whose soul is 
without spot, because it is the Soul of God; and whose 

§2 


CHRIST, PRIEST AND VICTIM 


Body, assumed from an Immaculate Virgin, is the 
fitting tenement of such a soul? 

Because this great Priest looks abroad over creation 
and can find no gift worthy to offer to the Eternal 
Father as an adequate act of adoration and supplica- 
tion, lo, He offers Himself. ‘‘Sacrifice and oblation,”’ 
He says, “Thou would’st not; but a Body thou hast 
fitted for me: Then said I, Behold I come.” O Chris- 
tians, as the bell sounds out the tidings, and you bow 
before the elevation of the Sacred Host, ponder well 
in your hearts this sacred truth. Christ is here! He 
stands at the Altar, the great High Priest of the Uni- 
verse, and pours out before God’s offended Majesty 
that Blood which was spilt on Calvary; which re- 
deemed the world; which opened Heaven; which tri- 
umphed over the gates of Hell; which made grace 
much more abound where once sin abounded; which 
cleanses sinners, and perfects saints! That Priest is 
my God: that Victim is my Saviour! That sacrifice 
of infinite value is all for me; that I, the child of sin, 
may be the very child of God; that my soul grown 
old in vice may return again to the innocence of my 
Baptism, may be renewed as it was before the world, 
the flesh and the Devil had made me the sinner that 
Tam. 

Now Christians, while Christ is with you, not as the 
injured God, but as the Priest pleading for your for- 
giveness, seize the opportunity to beg of Him what 
most your soul needs. Grasp the hem of His gar- 
ment, and do not let Him go till He has blessed you. 


we 


IF IT HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


What if it were the last time you were to kneel in 
His Presence on Earth! Would you not cry out with 
all the fervor of your being, “Jesus, Master, have 
mercy on me, for I am a sinner! Give me back Thy 
love, Thy grace, which I have forfeited. I am sick 
of sin: my soul is weary of guilt: the burden of my 
iniquity is too great for me to bear. I feel it weigh- 
ing me down, sinking me fast toward Hell. Stretch 
out thy right hand and save me. Jesus, Victim of 
love, help me. Lord, save me: I perish.” 

Look up, Christian soul, to the Altar where Jesus 
reigns; for even now He hears your cry and has sent 
forth strength to your soul, In union with Him offer 
to God all that is best in your possession—your soul 
freed from guilt, your heart purified from the love 
of sinful pleasure, your mind and all its faculties, 
your body and all its members. In spirit lay them all 
upon the Altar where Jesus is Royal Priest and Vic- 
tim; and in return ask of Him, the most precious gift 
in all Creation, His own Divine Self. 

This, O Christians, is what the Mass is—the highest 
and most exalted act of worship, the sublime Sacri- 
fice in which God offers to God a Victim-God, and 
you who are present join in the offering, and reap the 
inestimable benefits of the Sacrifice of Calvary. 

Where upon the earth can such worship be found 
except in the Church which Christ established? What 
treasure is there in the universe of such incomparable 
value as a single Mass? And yet how incredible, how 
appalling the coldness, the lukewarmness, the sloth, 


54 


CHRIST, PRIEST AND VICTIM 


the indifference of Catholics! If for one moment the 
veil were lifted from our eyes, and we saw what in 
reality the Mass is, we should be overwhelmed with 
wonder and gratitude. If we are not, it is because our 
faith is dead, our souls divided, our minds pre-occu- 
pied; because we do not forget the human, frail, mor- 
tal priest, in the over-powering consideration of the 
spotless, Divine Eternal One; nor merge the whole 
outward ceremonial in the awful reality of the Divine 
Victim and the ineffable drama of our redemption. 

Open wide, then, the eyes of the soul. Lay aside 
for the moment all thoughts of care and trouble; and 
ocme to the Holy Sacrifice as the early Christians did 
with hearts full of awe and love and devotion; for 
He who on the Altar as on Calvary is both Priest and 
Victim, is also the Eternal King of Heaven. 


5S 


Che Perfect Salbation 


By Merton S. Ricze, D.D., METROPOLITAN METHODIST 
EPISCOPAL CHURCH, DETROIT 


“Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in 

Whom we trust that He will yet deliver us.” 
—II COR. I-10 

HAVE never heard a sermon from this verse. I 

have not in any of my sermonic literature a sermon 
based upon it. In the commentaries I have at my 
disposal all the comment I have been able to find has 
been, that this was a difficult passage, which so far as 
I am able to make out is no particular distinguishment 
these days. But here stands this fine verse in the 
homiletic fascination of a self-analyzed passage, car- 
rying all those great throbs of Christian memory and 
experience and hope, which are the most preachable 
matters of our faith. 

The second Book of Corinthians opens with a most 
gracious salutation. It bears the message of comfort 
in a manner most impressive. I incline to feel that 
the whole book catches its flavor at its very beginning. 
Paul was making clear the fact of the experience of 
real comfort and help in distress, and the obligated 
helpfulness which such an experience put upon those 
who had it. I am ready to say, after an experience 
in the ministry running through more than thirty years, 


56 


THE PERFECT SALVATION 


and furnishing a cross section of service from the 
humblest country circuit to the most complex demands 
of the metropolitan situation, I am ready to say that 
the prime test of a genuine religion is its ability to 
stand in the midst of great trouble and of deep lia- 
bility and bring actual comfort. The Apostle Paul 
was close to his very best, when with his great pen 
dripping the flavor of his soul’s richest knowledge, 
he wrote here this great preceding verse, “The God 
of all comfort, who comforted us in all our tribula- 
tions, that we may be able to comfort them which 
are in any trouble by the comfort wherewith we our- 
selves are comforted of God.” ‘That great verse has 
come down the ages in constant accumulation of its 
beautiful meaning. I well remember when first I 
came to realize its worth. One of the memorably 
challenging moments of my ministry took its stand 
right here. A big strong man had fallen by a sudden 
stroke. He was a father upon whose strong service 
a large family depended. The mother and nine chil- 
dren were left. It hurt us all as we gathered in the 
stricken home, and we eagerly sought for every help- 
fulness we knew. Two weeks later the mother, in 
the price of a yet multiplied motherhood, broken in 
her grief beyond the demand of her strength, likewise 
fell before the grim sickle. There stood those hud- 
dling children alone. They lived on a farm. There 
was a heavy mortgage clinging to it. I turned to this 
great verse and sought for some words to say as nearly 
a Christian thing as I could say that difficult day. All 


7 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


the crowding farmer-folk who came pressing into that 
erief-filled house were broken of heart, but deter- 
mined of soul. Not one hand was withheld. Not 
one heart was unmoved. We did try to comfort them 
with the comfort we too had found. It challenged all 
the religious helpfulness we had. I went to see the 
man who held the mortgage. It was a heavy mort- 
gage for such a farm. But he was a man, and a Chris- 
tian. This same great verse was ringing in his soul. 
He said to me as I opened the door of his office and 
before I could tell my mission, “Don’t worry about 
that mortgage.’”’ And that fine group of grief-bound 
children, strengthened by the offered comfort of those 
to whom the faith had been helpful, worked their 
way out of it all to a great victory. They paid that 
mortgage. They preserved their home. I never rode 
down that country way, and failed to look toward 
that farm and pray for them. 

Out across the years comes this fine passage here, 
laden with such comfort and blessed by accumulated 
memories. That was what was in the heart of the 
author of our text when he wrote this whole book of 
saturate comfort about the God of all comfort. Then 
he goes on to tell of a most desperate experience 
through which he has just passed. He was almost 
dead. He had never told them about it. I was given 
up to die while in Asia. I was pressed out of meas- 
ure, pressed even beyond my strength. My life was 
despaired of. Everyone gave up hope. Then he 
writes in this very great and refreshing verse. 


58 


THE PERFECT SALVATION 


Through all this he declares he learned to trust in 
God, “Who delivered us from so great a death, and 
doth deliver; in whom we trust that He will yet de- 
liver us.;, 

Note the comprehensive statement of the perfect 
salvation which God has prepared for those who trust 
Him. Who did deliver us! The testimony of mem- 
ory, the sure evidence from the past. Who doth 
deliver us! The satisfied declaration of experience. 
The evidence of the present. Who will deliver us! 
The confidence for the future. The assurance of our 
hope. It would be impossible to find a verse more 
beautifully self-analyzed, or more homiletically per- 
fect in its statement of our satisfactory faith. The 
Perfect Salvation. God who did deliver us, who does 
deliver us, who will deliver us. For the past I am 
grateful. For the present I am satisfied. For the 
future I am confident. J would write this great fact 
in terms of real experience into all our lives. 

1. Who did deliver us. Thank God for the vigor- 
ous testimony brought by memory in confirmation of 
our faith out of an eloquent past. If I were confined 
to personal terms in the telling of this great story I 
could bring from the archives of all our lives the full 
confirmation of this claim. Doubtless in one way that 
is a matter in which all of God’s people should be 
finding a continuous satisfaction. It is, to be exact, 
the very application Paul was making as the basis of 
this great declaration of the text. He was building 


59 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


his great heartening message to all Christendom upon 
the satisfactory experience through which he had 
passed. He saved me. 

But there is always a way in which every personal 
thing overleaps every personal horizon, and becomes 
a great declaration for general testimony. When one 
speaks of the past in terms of religion he must touch 
a large range. The testimony of the satisfactory 
service of a God who did deliver, is a matter that 
carries age-over meaning. It is confirmed by the 
prophets and saints of old. It takes its place in an 
unbroken line back into all the past can be made to 
mean. 

Thank God for the faith that has come down the 
ages to bring us assurance now. How nobly it has 
come. Nothing has been able to turn it back. When 
we speak of the past out of which triumphantly our 
faith has come on, we cannot imagine any test that 
has not already been met. We read and read and 
read again, that never-tiring, always refreshing he- 
roic chapter in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and rejoice 
in the noble company who shout their convincing 
stories across the ages. By faith Abel, and Enoch, and 
Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and 
Joseph, and Moses, and Gideon, and Barak, and Sam- 
son, and Jephthae, and David. And, oh, such a great 
and inspiring army, for whose names there was not 
room. Wictors across life’s most severe trials. They 
subdued kingdoms; wrought righteousness; obtained 


60 


THE PERFECT SALVATION 


promises; stopped the mouths of lions; quenched the 
violence of fire; escaped the edge of the sword; out of 
weakness became strong; waxed valiant in fight; 
turned to flight the armies of the aliens; received their 
dead raised to life again; were tortured not accepting 
deliverance, thus obtaining even a better resurrection; 
had trials of cruel mocking and scourgings; were bound 
and imprisoned. They were stoned. They were sawn 
asunder. They were tempted. They were slain with 
the sword. They wandered about in sheep-skins and 
in goat-skins. They were destitute, afflicted, tor- 
mented. The world was not worthy of these. They 
wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens 
and caves of the earth. These all having obtained a 
good report through faith received not the promise, 
God having provided some better thing for us that 
they without us should not be made perfect. Thus 
we read the heroic chapter, and refresh our faith today 
in the fadeless story of yesterday. We thank God for 
the great list, this side of which we take our stand with 
a courage that draws new strength from all those who 
have gone on before us. We do not believe the great 
chapter was completed when the list as recorded in the 
Book was made. We believe the very same inherit- 
ance of that very same experience has been recorded 
right along down the unbroken story of the Church 
of God. The same deliverance that was made glorious 
by their stories has not failed even until now, and 


we tune our song to all the saints forever 


61 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“For all the saints, who from their labours rest, 
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed, 
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed, 

Hallalujah! 


“Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might, 
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight, 
Thou in the darkness drear, their one true light, 


Hallalujah! 


‘From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, 
Through gates of pearl, streams in the countless host, 
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 

Hallalujah!” 


Oh, Church of God, we should make sure to write 
the unbroken list of triumphant deliverance right down 
to our own day. Thanks be unto God, who did de- 
liver us. On every page of the great story thus far 
written stands the unbroken record of this thrilling 
fact. We cannot read back into it without the quick- 
ening pulse of our own purpose being roused within 
us. | 

How many, many times we have gone to that 
strange and surcharged spot on the banks of the Tyne 
at Jarrow. The sacred influence of the Venerable 
Bede has gripped the souls of thousands. There stands 
in sacred treasure the old chair in which he sat while 
he made the famous translation that lingers yet to 
testify to his name. From it we can almost see him, 
frail but mighty as he arose for the last time to speak 
the final words of the beautiful gospel of St. John, 


62 


THE PERFECT SALVATION 


and then sank to his knees to die. Then to Durham 
we go to look again at that strange massive coffin, a 
magnetic center of our interest. Made out of one great 
oaken log, and mounted on four crude rough wheels. 
In that shared coffin you remember they placed the 
bodies of both Bede and Cuthbert, and when days of 
great crisis arose, those people who loved their great 
leaders, would wheel those bodies about, that the sa- 
cred influence of the characters they seemed to make 
real among them, might again lend aid in the great 
test. Howsoever all such superstition may sound now 
to us in this proud day of far advanced enlighten- 
ment, there nevertheless does come still to all of us 
the sacred strength of the precious past. We know 
those victories. ‘We know those deliverances. We 
do take courage. We do believe by them now. We 
would wheel out with us as we go, all the sacred 
memories of all those, down all the long way, who 
have come through everything life and death can 
mean; and above their memories, and established in 
the confidences of their victories would shout, Thanks 
be unto God, Who did deliver us from so great a 
death. 

2. Who does deliver us. Our salvation is not a 
mere matter of memory. It does not ground itself 
alone upon the past. It is not a preservation. It is 
an experience now. He does deliver us. 

We have never been able to recognize the real value 
and power of history as it is being written. Today 
never seems as wonderful and conclusive as does 


63 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


yesterday. Nor does it seem so luring, or full of hope 
as does tomorrow. There is a strange tendency in 
all of us to look behind or ahead of us for real ins 
spiration. Remembering things that are gone, and 
pressing toward those things that are before, we easily 
forget that we are engaged in the actual encounter of 
today. These streets we know are so hard. ‘These 
days are so strenuous. ‘These heart-aches are so very 
painful. These sorrows are so real. These tempta- 
tions are so very trying. Oh, today, today, is a heavy 
struggling hour for sure. Our feet are weary. Our 
hearts are heavy. Our souls are bowed down. We 
are actually engaged with life just as it is. There is 
always some sweet forgetfulness of the past, which 
seems to bury from our real appreciation much that 
made it hard, and to leave for us to cherish only the 
residue of helpfulness of it all. But oh this hard to- 
day! It lacks romance in the rigid reality of it all. 
We know it so well. The sun of noon. The weari- 
ness of the flesh. The strain of soul. This is life 
just now. 

This great verse struck in here from the immediate | 
triumphant experience of Paul, was offered to those 
brethren, and was set glowing to all who should come 
afterward, as a precious possession of all the Church 
forever at the exact point of present requirement. My 
God doth deliver me now. That is exactly up to the 
last minute. Religion’s immediate help. No ex- 
cuses are made. No reservations are required. Life 
is met just as it is. There can be no more vital word 


64 


THE PERFECT SALVATION 


to get said to this day of ours than that. Our re- 
ligion is not a mere matter of history, neither is it a 
matter of persistent hope. For history and hope, both 
and each, we are grateful. But experience, as the 
present opportunity of life, we are glad for. We are 
in step with life now. God is still with His people. 


“A mighty fortress is our God, 
A bulwark never failing.” 


God does deliver us now. Upon the strong emphasis 
of this immediate experience almost every great for- 
ward movement in the Church’s history has been 
founded. The theology which has attended the great 
revivals has always been that which has been cast 
into the alembic of experience. It has been tried by 
the hard-edged challenge of the life about it. It de- 
mands a creed that can accompany courage. It must 
stand victoriously in the midst of life. 

One night that rugged and wonderful worker among 
men whose lives had been broken by sin, Sam Had- 
ley, was speaking to a large gathering of poor wrecks 
who had come into the doors of his mission hall. A 
trained physician sat among the men as an observer 
of a condition which drew him merely out of curi- 
osity. The vigorous appeal of the preacher for imme- 
diate decision for a new life finally so impressed the 
physician that he could not restrain the protest of his 
scientific objection to it all, and he arose and speaking 
feelingly said, “Mr. Hadley, you have been appeal- 
ing here with a glowing passion to these drunkards 


65 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


for a new and a made-over life. I speak as a physician 
to say that you would not talk to these men thus if 
you had ever seen what the inside of a drunkard’s 
stomach looks like.” As quick as a flash from the 
experience which was the basis of all the great mission 
worker’s preaching, he replied, “Sir, I had a drunk- 
ard’s stomach and Jesus Christ saved me from it, and 
saves me from it now.”’ How eloquently does genuine 
experience always meet life. We challenge the whole — 
world with the testimony of this salvation. It is the 
most convincing preachment we have. Oh for a wit- 
nessing Church. Your experience! Don’t leave it 
out. Who doth deliver us. We have a salvation that 
meets life actually. We are not compelled to make 
one exception. ‘Come unto Me, all ye.” Oh write 
that across life. Write it across life everywhere in 
the terms of your own experience. Write it against 
hardship. Write it against ease. Write it against 
sorrow. Write it against joy. Write it against old 
age. Write it against youth. Write it against life. 
Write it against death. Who doth deliver us. Thank 
God. 

3. Who will deliver us. Hope and the future. We 
have already come on past enough to warrant us in 
an on-reaching conclusion that will not turn back 
however far life may have yet to run. We have read 
enough history to vindicate the confidence we pro- 
fess. The race has certainly come on through con- 
vincing experience. We have ourselves individually 


66 


THE PERFECT SALVATION 


met life in such complicate situations that we feel sure 
of our right to draw our conclusions. 

We lift now our faces toward the great tomorrow. 
We are not troubled. We are not afraid. He will 
deliver us. This is the face-forward confidence of 
our religion. 

There is a very satisfactory privilege opened to us 
to look back through all life has thus far meant. We 
have God’s word to cover it all. I thank God every 
day of my life for what I have come safely past. 

“Thus far the Lord hath led me on, 
Thus far His power prolongs my days; 


And every evening shall make known, 
Some fresh memorial of His grace.” 


There is likewise a secure confidence I feel in the fact 
of today’s experience. I know Him as my salvation 
now. This is indeed a testing day. Life runs at me 
a-flood now. Dangers are all about me. It does re- 
quire the genuine power of a real faith to stand vic- 
torious now. But I am confident in this very sig- 
nificant day and hour to announce this Christian 
sufficiency. 

Upon all life has been and is, I have built up in 
my soul an unshakable faith for the future. He will 
deliver me. I believe I know somewhat the meaning 
of such a declaration as that. There is much ahead. 
Life may even yet have tests for me that are more 
fierce than anything through which thus far I have 
had to pass. I am come on out of youth into mid-life. 


67 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


The noontime of the struggle is a trying hour. Much 
of life’s worst tragedy, I know too, has come in the 
afternoon. ‘There is something about that cry of the 
psalmist for the defense from the pestilence that 
wasteth at noonday, that makes me feel that he had 
been in the hard task of the noon of life. I want to. 
write my confidence right now at that very crucial 
hour. Not in the approach of the battle. That 1s 
hard. I have seen fine young fellows, as brave as any 
soldiers, lose control of themselves as they came up 
to the battle. It is a great test. My own son said 
to me, before he had felt the shock of actual battle, 
and when the anticipation of it was in his soul, “I 
don’t want to lose niy nerve going in.” I can speak 
religiously now of life in the very midst of the con- 
flict. He does deliver me. But I know there is yet to 
be the test of the evening time. I read with very 
great interest in our news column recently an account 
of a man who had been conducting some experiments 
in hypnotism over wild beasts. He had just cowed a 
powerful lion into unconsciousness, and turning to 
speak to the wondering spectators that great beast re- 
covered himself and leaped fiercely upon the trainer 
and tore his arm into shreds. I am not haunted as I 
look into the future with the liability of a merely 
hypnotized past that will come again into the clamor 
of all its fierce threatenings. I go straight on to the. 
evening time of my mortality in the assurance of the 
fact that all the dangers of my past life have not been 


68 


THE PERFECT SALVATION 


hypnotized but forgiven, and blotted out of His Book 
of remembrance. 

Before me is death. He will deliver me. This is 
the forward confidence I would write across life. 
Write it to the very end. 


“Thus when the night of death shall come, 
My flesh shall rest beneath the ground, 
And wait Thy voice to rouse the tomb, 
With sweet salvation in the sound.” 


I write these words immediately upon my return 
from the grave where we left the mortal remains of 
one of the most heroic Christian young men I have 
ever known. Just as youth was catching strong step 
in noble purpose he was stricken with a most deadly 
disease. So far as has been known by medical 
science never but two cases have recovered. This 
young man declared he was going to be the third. He 
was in training as a physician. He immediately 
adopted every precaution in what he knew must be a 
long, long contest, if he should live. Day after day, 
for weeks, months and years, that indomitable young 
soul fought that fight with death. Every day he held 
scientific record of his life for one thousand and fif- 
teen days. He has charted on an unbroken chart, the 
full record of his heart and his temperature, and in 
eleven volumes of carefully listed observations of life 
pursued by death he has left us his great story. 
Through it all, and down to the very last breath of it 
all he has sung, and then asked us to sing it when he 
was gone, 


69 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“Through every day, 
O’er all the way, 
God will take care of you.” 


I stand as a preacher of the Gospel of the Chris- 
tian faith to gaze steadily ahead into tomorrow in the 
assurance of the promise we hold. He will deliver us. 

Neither heights, nor depths, nor things present, nor 
things to come, nor life, nor death, nor any other crea- 
ture, can invalidate this great salvation for me now or 
ever. 

He saved me yesterday. ‘That involves all that my 
crimson sin had come to mean. He washed me from 
the guilt, and saved me from the power and dominion 
of sin. 

He saves me today. That involves all that tempta- 
tion, and faltering, and stumbling can mean. It can 
be spoken in all the meaning of the infinite tender- 
ness of the infinite Saviour, who shielded from blame 
the poor sinful woman who wanted a chance at a new 
life, as well as in the offered meaning of the infinite 
promise to help us all and each. 

He will save me tomorrow. That involves all that 
can be run into the meaning of hell and heaven in 
the destiny of the human soul. 

He is the God of our salvation, and it is not His 
desire that any soul should perish. Oh Thou Christ 
of every human need! The past assures us, the pres- 
ent confirms us, the future secures us. We give Thee 
our unfaltering allegiance. Memory, experience, and 
hope, confirm our salvation. 


1? 


Waipat ig a Religious Lite? 


By Joun Haynes HoLtMeEs, THE COMMUNITY CHURCH, 
NEW YORK 


Y SUBJECT is the specific question, What con- 
stitutes a religious life? I say “specific,” for 
the reason that I do not propose to deal in abstrac- 
tions and generalities, to wander off into mystic 
heights of ecstasy and rapture. I want to be perfectly 
matter-of-fact in what I have to say, and thus specify, 
if I can, what it is in this daily, routine life of ours 
which differentiates a religious man from every other 
kind of a man. 

More particularly do I want to mark, if possible, 
the distinction between a religious man and a moral 
man. We all of us know, or ought to know, what are 
the ethical standards of existence. After centuries of 
experience and thought, we have laid hold upon some 
fundamental principles that may be said to constitute 
morality. But what is the distinction between these 
principles and religion? Is there some ideal, or aspira- 
tion, or way of life added on to ethics to make religion, 
or is this supplementation an illusion, and ethics, after 
all, the whole philosophy of noble living? 

There are plenty of people to argue that ethics and 
religion, in the true sense of the word, are practically 


71 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


synonymous, and that anything “beyond good and 
evil,” which we may choose to call religion, is only so 
much superstition, to be exposed and gotten rid of as 
soon as possible. But I propose to present the point 
of view that religion is something more than ethics— 
that religion is all that ethics is and then something 
in addition. In saying this, I do not seek to discredit 
ethics. The moral life, as such, is entitled to utter 
reverence, and may be all that can properly be exacted 
of men and women on this earthly plane. After all, 
if we can attain to some standard of morality in this 
world, we are doing pretty well; and for the present, 
at least, we may be wise to make this the next and 
farthest goal of our endeavor. But in my heart of 
hearts I cannot believe that morality constitutes, in 
any ultimate sense, this farthest goal. I must believe 
that there is something still beyond and above, and 
this the most precious thing in life. It is like the 
experience we have when we climb a mountain! 
Straight ahead, up the slippery sides of the craggy 
slopes, there looms the peak that we are seeking. We 
climb and climb, with much effort and heavy labor, 
only to find, when the peak is gained, that the sum- 
mit of the mountain lies beyond. It is this “beyond” 
that constitutes religion. It is that elevation which is 
higher still than the elevation upon which we stand. 
It is “the top of the world”—a rarer atmosphere, a 
loftier outlook, and as the price of its attainment, a 
mightier labor and sacrifice, than anything that ethics 
can ever know. Now abide these two things—the 


72 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


moral life and the religious life; and the greater of 
these is the religious! 

I accept the viewpoint, in other words, of Jesus! 
You remember the immortal story of the rich young 
ruler. “What shall I do,” said this young man to 
Jesus, “to inherit eternal life?’ It is significant to 
notice that, in answer to this inquiry, Jesus turned im- 
mediately to the great commandments of the Law. 
“Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt 
not commit adultery; honor thy father and thy 
mother.” The first stage in the journey toward 
“eternal life,” obviously enough, is the stage of ethics. 
We must live the moral life before we can hope for 
anything else. We can have no true religion without 
ethics. But the ruler has done all of these things! 
“These things have I done,” he said, referring to the 
commandments, “from my youth up.” But did this 
satisfy Jesus? Not at all! Having obeyed all the 
commandments of the Law, and thus achieved the 
moral life, there was yet one thing more that this 
young man must do. And what was this “‘more,” but 
that additional achievement which marks impressively 
the difference between religion and morality? The 
religious life, in other words, is something special. It 
has distinctive features of its own. And it is these 
features which, if possible, I want to isolate and de- 
scribe. 

In considering this subject, I can think of nothing 
better to do than to select certain notable men, whom 
we would all agree to call religious, and use these as 


73 


IF 1 HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


a basis of analysis. What qualities do such men 
share in common, which do not appear in the lives of 
ordinary men? Are there qualities of this kind? If 
we find such, have we not laid hold upon just those 
qualities which distinguish the religious life from 
every other kind of a life? Following this line of pro- 
cedure, I choose for our examples of personal religion 
three men—one ancient, one medieval, one modern— 
whose names we will all agree represent transcendent 
qualities of spiritual character. 

The first is Jesus! There can be no dispute as to the 
spiritual supremacy of this man. Controversy has 
raged, and still rages, over the theological question of 
his person—his relation to God, his incarnation of 
the holy spirit, his cosmic rank as judge of the quick 
and the dead. But when all these disputes have been 
swept away as having no reality, there emerges the 
figure of that noble Nazarene, human as we are 
human, a man as we are men, a figure of history like a 
thousand others, but moving on planes of thought 
and life so elevated, so exalted, that it is not surprising 
that men have thought of him as divine. Even his 
disciples felt his qualities in ways that made them 
speculate as to whether he was not the promised 
Messiah come at last. For these qualities were pre- 
eminently spiritual; they had to do with communion 
with things infinite and eternal, and the power that 
comes from such communion. Jesus was religious— 
he lived the religious life—and, in sheer wonder at 


74 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


the beauty of such a life, men have for centuries ac- 
claimed him as King and Lord. 

The second man, whom I take as an example, is 
Francis of Assisi. It was over seven hundred years 
ago that this medieval saint lived and died. Seven 
hundred years is a long time to be remembered, yet 
the Assisan is as fresh a figure today as when he walked 
in love and joy upon the earth. In all of Christian 
history there is no man quite comparable to him; next 
only to the Nazarene himself, St. Francis stands 
supreme. Yet he was not a genius in any worldly 
sense. He left no writing to compare with Dante’s 
“Divine Comedy,” or Petrarch’s sonnets; his preaching 
stirred no multitudes as did Savonarola’s; even in 
organizing and administrative capacity he was far 
inferior to St. Dominic. But it was just because he 
excelled in no one of these qualities, perhaps, that he 
became so transcendent a figure for posterity. He 
lived in an age of war and cruel barbarism, in an age 
of dazzling wealth and its attendant corruption, in an 
age of lust, pride, and moral depravity. The church 
was as rotten as the state, the common man as vicious 
as the prince. In such a time, this “little brother” of 
Assisi walked in ways that lifted him up among his 
fellows, and endeared him to humanity through all 
future time, as one come from God himself. St. 
Francis, like the Master whom he so obediently fol- 
lowed, was a religious man. He lived the religious 
life. Of all men of our western world in the last two 
thousand years, I know of none who represents so per- 


fe) 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


fect a pattern of what we mean by the religious life as 
Francis. 

The last man, whom I take as an example, is a 
modern, one who is living among us at this moment— 
Mahatma Gandhi, of India. This man is not a Chris- 
tian; I am glad of it, for his character demonstrates 
that Christianity has no monopoly in the things of the 
spirit. From his youth up Gandhi has been a Hindu. 
He is Eastern in all his thoughts and in all his ways of 
life. Yet we search the world in vain today for any 
man who so fully embodies what we regard as the 
Christian ideal, who follows so closely in the footsteps 
of Francis yesterday and of Jesus the day before, as 
this same Hindu. Says Bishop Fisher of Calcutta, for 
more than twenty years a Christian missionary in 
India, “You must take Mahatma Gandhi as perhaps 
the St. Francis of today. He is the nearest approach 
to the incarnation of the life of Jesus Christ that the 
world beholds.’? The divine inheritance, after all, 
knows no churches and no religions. It comes, like the 
air we breathe, out of the universal heavens, and into 
the universal heart. It is like the wind, to use Jesus’s 
immortal parable. “It bloweth where it listeth, and 
no man knoweth whence it cometh or whither it goeth.” 
Not to the Christian world at all, but to the pagan 
world, do we have to look today for the supreme and 
perfect example of the religious life. 

It is these three men—Jesus, St. Francis, Mahatma 
Gandhi—that I would offer to you as illustrations of 
the religious principle incarnate in human life. What 


76 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


qualities, now, do these men share together which are 
distinctive as contrasted with the qualities of other 
men? What have they done, as by agreement, which 
the ordinary man does not do? If we can answer 
these questions in the light of these transcendent ex- 
amples, we shall have gone far, it seems to me, toward 
finding out just what it is that constitutes per se the 
religious fife. 

(1) The first fact common to these men, which at- 
tracts attention, is their poverty. Jesus’s poverty, in 
origin at least, was accidental; he was born of a poor 
family, and remained in the ranks of artisans and 
peasants all his days. St. Francis’s poverty was vol- 
untary; his father was a wealthy cloth-merchant, who 
allowed his son to live in luxury and ease until there 
came that dramatic moment when the young man 
stripped himself naked, and went out a beggar upon 
the public highway. Gandhi's poverty is partly in- 
herited, and partly voluntary; his father, a well-to-do 
merchant, gave away in charity the greater part of his 
possessions, a process which the son gladly completed 
when he dedicated his life to his fellow-men. ‘This 
mere fact of poverty in itself, however, has little 
significance. What is important is the attitude which 
it betokens on the part of these men toward the whole 
problem of property and the soul. 

Jesus made the issue perfectly clear when he said 
that there were two powers struggling for the al- 
legiance of mankind—the one, God, and the other, 
Mammon. These are the two masters whom we can 


i 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


serve, he said; one or the other, for we cannot serve 
both. Each requires nothing less than the whole and 
the best of a man. When we get hungry for money, 
we find ourselves doing things which debase character 
and outrage ideals. When we have accumulated prop- 
erties, we feel it our first duty to protect these prop- 
erties, and our easiest temptation to increase them. 
Where our treasure is, there our heart is also! So the 
inner life in us becomes darkened. We find ourselves 
cut off from our fellow-men, and set against them. 
More and more we choose money instead of men, and 
prefer property to human interest. So wealth grows 
stronger than a man, and finally owns him body and 
soul. How hardly, therefore, can a rich man enter 
into the Kingdom of Heaven! This is not because he 
is wicked, in any way natively worse than other men. 
But he has laid upon himself such burdens that it is 
harder for him to enter into the Kingdom than for a 
camel to pass through the eye of a needle. So it was 
that Jesus advised the rich young ruler, when he 
wanted to inherit eternal life, that he sell his goods 
and give the money to the poor. 

St. Francis went to even greater extremes than his 
Master. Upon himself and all his followers he laid 
the vow of poverty. No brother could own anything, 
but all must possess in common. Even the Order itself 
could hold no property, but all its churches and shrines 
be accepted simply as loans, for which due payment 
was to be made. This was not because Francis was an 
ascetic—on the contrary, he was full of the beauty and 


78 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE2 


joy of life! But he had known “the deceitfulness of 
_ riches” in his youth; and he wanted now that his life, 
and the lives of his followers, should be delivered from 
the burden of possession. He dreaded the temptation 
of owning anything. One day a novice came to him, 
and asked if he might not have a psalter of his own 
for his private devotions. The Saint refused him. 
“When you have your psalter,” he said “‘you will want 
a breviary, and when you have a breviary, you will 
seat yourself in a pulpit like a great prelate, and you 
will beckon to your companion, and say, “Bring me my 
breviary.’”’? Thus would his soul be lost! So Francis 
took Poverty to be his bride, and pledged the brethren 
of his Order to her service as “‘the lady of their chaste 
loves.” When the bishop of Assisi protested against 
the extremities of his practice, the good Saint replied, 
_ “My Lord, if we possessed property, we should have 
need of arms for its defense, for it is the source of 
quarrels and law-suits; and the love of God and of 
one’s neighbor usually finds many obstacles therein.” 
The same conviction holds the soul of Gandhi. Like 
Jesus and Francis, he has put by all the temptations of 
wealth, and would lead his people into those ways of 
simplicity and self-denial which can alone save them, 
he believes, from destruction. It is from this point of 
view that the Mahatma looks with such horror upon 
Western industry and Western culture, and strives to 
turn back the tide of influence from our world that is 
now beating upon the shores of his country. Let there 
be no question as to why Gandhi fears and hates the 


79 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


West! It is because ours is a materialistic civilization; 
because we have builded a society which lays down the 
dictum that men may be sacrificed to money, and peace 
to property. Gandhi, like the Easterners generally, is 
predominantly interested in the things of the spirit; he 
seeks for himself and his people the religious life, and 
he sees our lust of possession a menace to his dreams. 

It is perfectly clear, from these examples, that the 
religious life is inconsistent with the idea of property. 
It has to do with good and not with goods. Here it is 
sharply distinguished from the merely moral life. For 
a rich man can be moral; he can hold and spend his 
money, if he be conscientious, with every regard for 
the principles of right living. But can a rich man be 
religious? Not if Jesus and Francis and Gandhi are 
right. There seems to be something fundamentally in- 
consistent between what we have in terms of the 
temporal and what we are in terms of the spiritual. If 
we would live the religious life, we must divorce our- 
selves from that love of money which is “the root of 
all evil.”” How to do this is a question, the most 
terrible question of our day! The great men, to whom 
I am referring, sought economic freedom through the 
device of communal ownership. Jesus had his band 
of disciples with their common purse; Francis had his 
Order with its common treasury; Gandhi has his school 
and settlement, the Ashram. Whether it is possible, 
or wise, to undertake such a movement, in such a 
society as ours, 1s another question. ‘The one thing we 
must seek, to my mind, is the socialization of our entire 


So 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


system of industry and life. The true objective for 
the individual whe would live the religious life, in our 
inherently materialized civilization, is the reconstruc- 
tion of the social order in such ways that wealth shall 
be equitably distributed as well as abundantly pro- 
duced, that the many shall have what they earn rather 
than the few what they seize, that riches and poverty 
shall be alike abolished in the equal enjoyment of the 
common good. We must seek, in other words, that 
great revolution of economic democracy, which is the 
true successor to the recent revolution of political 
democracy. Mankind must be made a brotherhood. 
Meanwhile, each one of us has his problem, as an in- 
dividual, to attain deliverance from the personal pas- 
sion of property. Only the man who does this is 
spiritually free— \ 


ia3 


. . . free from servile bands, 
Of hope to rise, and fear to fall; 
Lord of himself, though not of lands, 
And having nothing, yet hath all.” 


(2) I turn, now, to a second characteristic of the 
religious life. I refer to sympathy for the down- 
trodden and defenseless among our fellows, and an 
active, courageous, deliberately partisan advocacy of 
their cause. 

If anything is more conspicuous in the Gospels than 
Jesus’s severity upon the rich, it 1s his sympathy for 
the poor. And this sympathy was something more 
than sympathy. It was not charity, merely, but cham- 
pionship. It was a plea not for mercy but for justice. 


81 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


He declared that these poor should be free. “Blessed 
are ye poor,” he cried. “Blessed are ye that hunger 
now, for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep. 
now, for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye when men 
shall separate you from their company, and reproach 
you—for, behold, your reward is great.” Next after 
the poor came the sick, not cared for in Jesus’s day as 
in ours, but feared and cast aside when beset with con- 
tagion and insanity! He sought them out and com- 
forted them and frequently, by his mere presence, 
healed them. Then he went to prisoners behind the 
bars, and prostitutes upon the streets—all the hated 
and despised of men—and lifted them up, and gave 
them a place within his Kingdom. What more 
significant than Jesus’s declaration of his mission, 
when he stood up in the synagogue to preach! “I am 
come,” he said, ‘“‘to preach the gospel to the poor .. . 
to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to 
the captives... to set at liberty them that are 
bruised.”’ 

St. Francis was the same kind of aman. Even asa 
dissolute young spendthrift, there was something in 
him that bound him to the wretched from whom others 
turned aside. Thus, there is the famous story of how 
he met a leper one day upon the road, and instinctively 
wheeled his horse away in disgust. Then suddenly, 
not knowing why, he leaped from his steed, bowed him- 
self in the dust, kissed the leper, and wiped his wounds 
with his clothing. When he started his Order and 
gathered his brethren about him, these lepers were his 


82 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


first concern. ‘Then came the poor—hence the name 
of his followers, ““The Little Brothers of the Poor’! 
Then came the criminals and outcast; one day when 
three notorious robbers had been driven away by 
Brother Angelo, Francis sent post-haste to bring them 
back, that they might be loved and served. Even ani- 
mals in their troubles won his heart. Thus, he would 
deliver birds from their cages, and “take up the worms 
and slow moving insects from the road where they 
might be crushed under foot.” 

Gandhi has the same spirit, and has set himself to 
the same mission. Remember how he abandoned his 
profession, his family, his career, his social standing, 
everything that life had to offer, for the sake of the 
coolie laborers of South Africa, with whom he lived 
for twenty years, that he might share their suffering 
and battle for their deliverance! Note his devotion 
today to the piteous cause of the “untouchables”! 
Here in India are some fifty millions of unhappy men 
and women, who are banished from the society of their 
countrymen. The Hindu will not eat with the “un- 
touchable,” he will not speak with him, he will not 
receive him into his home, he will not even pass him 
upon the public highway, lest he be defiled. Think of 
the status of the southern Negro, then magnify it an 
hundred-fold, and you have a picture of the plight of 
the “untouchable” in modern India. To this most 
wretched of mortals has now come Gandhi as a cham- 
pion and friend. The Mahatma is not merely kind 
to the “untouchable.” He has espoused his cause. 


83 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


He has demanded his liberation as an equal among 
equals. He receives him at his table, in his home, 
among his disciples, and asks that others receive him 
also. As Garrison freed the slave, so would Gandhi 
free the pariah. And all India is convulsed by this 
revolutionary demand of its greatest man for the 
emancipation of the most despised and degraded 
among its people. 

Here, now, is the second requisite of the religious 
life. We must be the friends, the advocates, the 
champions of the oppressed. This does not mean, I 
repeat, mere charity. There is more, infinitely more, 
involved here than the giving of alms and sympathy 
to those less fortunate than ourselves. Charity as such 
belongs to the moral life, and in so far is good and 
beautiful. But beyond this is the exaction of the 
religious life—that we shall recognize these unfor- 
tunates to be our brothers, that we shall lift them up 
and place them in our world where they may be one 
with us in privilege and joy, that we shall demand jus- 
tice and equality for the meanest of the race. These 
down-trodden and oppressed are with us still, be sure 
of that! The poor still crouch beneath a system which 
bends their backs and breaks their hearts; the worker 
still is exploited for the support of those who live in 
luxury and ease; the Negro still is branded with the 
badge of inferiority; children still labor; women still 
suffer; conscripted youth still walk in chains behind 
the chariot of war. Religion demands that we shall 
espouse the cause of these unhappy men; not that we 


84 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


shall pity them merely, but that we shall deliver them, 
though the foundations of society be cracked by our 
endeavor. This is the task of the religious life. So 
Isaiah saw, when he told of the Messiah who should 
“Judge the poor in righteousness, and decide with 
equity for the oppressed of the earth.” So Theodore 
Parker prayed from out his own great soul, when he 
said— 

“Give me the power to labor for mankind, 

Make me the mouth of such as cannot speak; 
Eyes let me be to groping men and blind, 


. and to the weak 
Let me be hands and feet.” 


(3) This mention of the religious life as reaching 
down into the darkest pit of human misery brings us 
immediately to the third characteristic of the religious 
life. I refer to the fact that those who would live the 
religious life must not only reach down to the lowest, 
but also out to the farthest, of mankind. Religion, in 
other words, must be universal and thus inclusive. It 
must recognize that “God hath made of one blood all 
nations of men,” and thus over-leap all barriers in the 
quest of brotherhood. 

All three of our chosen exemplars are universal 
men. ‘There are indications that Jesus, in the begin- 
ning of his ministry, was thinking only of the Jews. 
He commanded his disciples not to go “into any way 
of the Gentiles, and (to) enter not into any city of 
the Samaritans, but to go rather to the lost sheep of 
the House of Israel.” He refused to aid the Syro- 


85 


IF 1 HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


phoenician woman, because she was not a Jew, and 
her daughter a child of Jacob. But this provincialism 
dropped from him as a garment, as he pursued his 
cause; and in the climax of his work, he received all 
men into the embrace of his affection. Jew and 
Gentile, Israelite and Samaritan, Roman and Ethio- 
pian, it was all the same to him. Not race, or na- 
tionality, or religion, not blood or tribe, not creed or 
color, mattered in the slightest. The spiritual test 
was alone important. When Peter, the Jew, faced 
Cornelius, the Roman, it was the spirit of Jesus upon 
his lips and in his heart, when he said, “Of a truth I 
perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in 
every nation, he that feareth him and worketh 
righteousness, is acceptable to him.” 

Francis also was a universal man. He was a citi- 
zen of Assisi when he began—as narrow as any of 
those medieval townsmen who liked nothing better 
than to buckle on their armor and draw sword, to 
do battle against their neighbors. But before he was 
done, this Assisan was a citizen of the world, with 
all the world for his parish. He went to Spain, he 
journeyed to Syria and Morocco, he sought out the 
Mohammedan and called him brother. Country, lan- 
guage, church—these meant naught to him. He loved 
men, as he loved birds and fishes and flowers, because 
they shared the life of God, and were all members 
one of another in his eternal Kingdom. 

As for Gandhi, he is preéminently the universal 
man of our time. In his own life he is individualistic 


86 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


—he has his own distinctive attachments and loyalties. 
Thus he is an Indian, devoted to the vindication and 
perpetuation of Indian culture. He is a Hindu, and 
among the Hindus a member of the strictest sect. In 
the seething political life of his country, he is a “‘No- 
Changer” as over against Swarajists, Liberals, and 
Home-Rulers. Against the English he has set his 
face like flint, to destroy their government by denial 
of codperation. But loyalties and convictions of this 
kind do not shut his heart from men. Whatever the 
differences of opinion and policy, he can still be at 
one with all men in trust and love. Nothing in the 
end is so important, he says, as unity. Referring to 
the furious hatred between Mohammedan and Hindu, 
Gandhi says, “Is the God of the Mohammedan dif- 
ferent from the God of the Hindu? Religions are 
different roads converging to the same point.” Re- 
ferring to the sectarian differences that rend his coun- 
trymen, he says, “The Hindus, the Mohammedans, 
the Parsees and the Christians, who have made India 
their country, are fellow-countrymen, and must live 
together in unity.” Speaking of political discussions, 
he cries, “If I have equal love in me for No-Changers, 
Swarajists, Liberals, Home-Rulers, Independents, and 
for that matter, Englishmen, I know that it is well 
for me, and well also for the cause.” So does he 
cherish this “equal love’”—a love that leaps beyond 
the barriers of country and race, as beyond the bar- 
riers of church and party, and binds him to men 
wherever found. 


87 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


In this do we have the third distinctive quality of 
the religious life. If we would be religious, in the 
truest sense of the word, we must know no creed or 
class, no race or country, but only the family of 
humankind. Not so is it with morality! The moral 
man can be parochial—tie himself up to some single 
group of men, and know nothing beyond this group. 
His world can be his country, and his only friends his 
countrymen. But the religious man can stop nowhere 
short of the circumference of the globe. Wherever 
men are, there are his brothers. Wherever a mouth 
speaks, a hand labors, a heart sorrows, there is his post 
of service. The religious man can feel no prejudice, 
cherish no fear, give way to no antagonism and hate. 
He can hide behind the walls of no single sect, wrap 
himself in the flag of no single country. If he sees 
a man, of whatever breed or color, he must simply 
love him, that is all; and thus in his love, which is his 
religion, fulfil the promise of that day when 

‘Nation with nation, land with land, 
Unarmed shall live as comrades free, 


In every heart and brain shall throb 
The pulse of one fraternity.” 


(4) The mention of that word, “unarmed,” brings 
us to another quality, or characteristic, of the reli- 
gious life. Have you ever stopped to notice how per- 
sistently in all ages and in all countries, religion moves, 
as though by some pull of celestial gravitation, 
straight toward the ideal of non-resistance—the re- 
fusal to practice force and violence for the attainment 


88 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


of ends, or, as Gandhi puts it, in terms positive rather 
than negative, the use of soul-force in place of physi- 
cal force? Many there are who interpret this fact as 
evidence of the essential instability of the religious 
consciousness, of the tendency of the spirit to become 
fanatical and go to extremes. But I am inclined to 
believe, on the other hand, that we have here a revela- 
tion of the essential nature of religion, its inevitable 
application when it is wholly true to itself. There 
‘can be no doubt, at any rate, as to what our exemplars 
think about this matter. 

Jesus is the outstanding non-resistant of all time. 
It is from him that we get the classic phrases descrip- 
tive of this ideal—“‘resist not evil,” “turn the other 
cheeky love your enemies,” >: ‘he’ ‘that taketh, the 
sword shall perish by the sword.” It is from him 
that we get immortal instances of conduct under this 
ideal—his refusal to take up arms for his Kingdom, 
his refusal to fight when arrested, his forgiveness of 
his enemies upon the cross. It is in his followers, 
also, the early Christians, that we find the greatest 
non-resistant movement in history. It is curious, 
when you come to think of it, that this ideal should 
have been so central in Jesus’s thought. For it was 
the Maccabean tradition that flourished in his day, 
and the one desire of Jerusalem was for a Messiah to 
appears in arms against the Romans. But Jesus drew 
“the sword of the spirit,’ and used this as his only 
weapon. 


St. Francis, in his ardor to imitate the Nazaréng, j>, 
we eat cf at Gp 


mi 


89 a . 


tPA, 
WOM, 


“iy, 
the 


Koh 
Mie 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


found nothing more necessary than non-resistance. So 
he sold his horse and armor, which he had worn so 
proudly as a soldier of Assisi, laid by his sword, and, 
putting on the robe of a beggar, went forth to win 
men not by power but by love. In all the literature 
of non-resistance, I know of no story more delightful 
—and also more impressive, as illustrating the posi- 
tive aspects of the principle—than the story of Fran- 
cis and the bishops. It reminds one of the story of 
Jesus, when he was asked to send down lightning 
upon the Samaritans because they would not receive 
him in hospitality. It seems that Francis’s disciples 
came to him one day, and complained because certain 
bishops would not permit them to preach, but kept 
them idle and silent for days at a time. ‘Why don’t 
we go to the pope,” they said, “and get a privilege? 
Then these bishops would be forced to let us speak.” 
But Francis answered, “I would first convert the pre- 
lates by humility and respect, for when they have 
seen us humble and respectful toward them, they them- 
selves will beg us to preach and convert the people. 
I ask no privilege unless it be that I may have none— 
and to convert men more by our example than by our 
speech.”’ 

As for Gandhi, his non-resistant methods and prac- 
tises are become the wonder of the world. Indeed, the 
Mahatma is unique among non-resistants in his use 
of “soul force,” as he calls it, for the accomplishment 
of the greatest political and economic ends. In South 
Africa, for twenty years, he fought a battle against 


go 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


tyranny with no other weapons than those of patient 
endurance of oppression and steadfast love of the 
enemy—and carried it through to victory. During the 
last eight years, he has been the leader of the Indian 
movement for national independence. He has been 
trying to do for his country, in other words, what 
Wallace did for Scotland, Garibaldi for Italy, George 
Washington for America. But unlike these other 
patriots, the Mahatma has drawn no sword and shed 
no blood. Like Francis, he would convert his foes 
and bring them to his side by “humility and respect.” 

Thus does non-resistance take its place among the 
religious virtues. More than any other one quality, 
it marks the distinction between the moral life and 
the religious life. I find no necessary place for non- 
resistance in a code of ethics. I can conceive of a man 
exemplifying the highest ideals of morality, and still 
resorting to violence for such legitimate ends as the 
defense of the weak and the oppressed. But religion 
takes us on to an altogether different plane, introduces 
us to an altogether different world. Here we get a 
new outlook, a new understanding of the forces of 
time and eternity. We become non-resistant in spite 
of ourselves, for we discover, to quote the words of 
Blake, that 


ce 
e 


. the tear is an intellectual thing, 

And a sigh is the sword of an Angel King, 
And the bitter groan of the martyr’s woe 

Is an arrow from the Almighty’s bow.” 


(5) The mention of non-resistance brings us in- 


Ql 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


evitably to the next and last aspect of the religious 
life. What does the poet mean when he speaks of a 
“sigh” as “the sword of an Angel King,” and a mar- 
tyr’s “groan” as “an arrow from the Almighty’s 
bow”? Why, he means what Emerson meant when 
he spoke of hitching our wagon to a star. How, think 
you, does the non-resistant dare to put by the sword 
and the shield, and set his naked breast against the 
world? Because he believes in spiritual forces! Be- 
cause he has faith in a power not ourselves that makes 
for righteousness! Because he trusts in God to bind 
men’s hearts as he binds the stars. Behind the non- 
resistant ideal, in other words, there is that final vin- 
dication of religion which is the Spirit. 

Jesus was in nothing so remarkable as in his imme- 
diate and exhaustive consciousness of the Divine. 
More truly of him than of Spinoza can it be said that 
he was “a God-intoxicated man.” ‘There was some- 
thing naive about his interpretation of God; few minds 
today can be satisfied with his theology. But Jesus 
was a man of his time, and he thought of God very 
much as others thought of him in that age. What was 
unique was Jesus’s passion for God as a living and 
potent presence in the hearts of men. 

St. Francis was the same—he had the same great 
consciousness of God. To him the divine spirit was 
so real that the whole universe was alive, and all 
things as kinsmen of his heart. Read his immortal 
‘Canticle of the Sun,’? and see how he addressed the 
sun as his ‘‘brother,’ and the moon as his “‘sister,”’ 


Q2 


WHAT IS A RELIGIOUS LIFE? 


and? sang )ptaises!) to,’ his, ‘sister, water,”’, and) his 
“brother fire,” and his “mother the earth’! Francis 
was more naive than Jesus, but his heart was in tune 
with the Infinite, and discovered, therefore, realities 
of Love and Beauty, powers of Truth and Right, that 
most of us know nothing about. 

As for Gandhi, he is again the same! Every day— 
his hour of prayer with the Eternal! Every week— 
his twenty-four hours of silent meditation with the 
Divine! Every year—his stated period of withdrawal 
from the world, that he may find God and understand 
his purposes afresh. ‘“Without prayer,” says the Ma- 
hatma, “I could do nothing.” But he faces an Em- 
pire, with no other weapons than patience and love 


within the heart, because he sees 


“God within the shadow, keeping 
watch above his own.” 


These men are mystics! To them this world is no 
machine, its essence no combination of mere matter 
and force. On the contrary, this world is to them a 
living organism, a spirit at work with destiny, a power 
that moves the stars and moves not less the hearts of 
men. In this consciousness of spiritual reality is the 
crown of the religious life. We must all be mystics 
if we would be religious. The moral man may be 
content, like the Stoic, to be himself the master of his 
fate, the captain of his soul. But the religious man 
reaches out for the Divine, and finds him at his side. 


93 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


H. G. Wells has summed it all up, with matchless 
eloquence, in his God the Invisible King: 


“Religion is the first thing and the last 
thing, and until a man has found God... , 
he begins at no beginning, he works to no end. 


“Life falls into place, only with God, who 
fights through men against Blind Force and 
Might and Non-Existence ; 


“Who fights with men against the confusion 
and evil within us and without, and against 
death in any form; 


“Who loves us as a great Captain loves 
his men, and stands ready to use us in 
his immortal adventure against waste, 
disorder, cruelty and vice; 


“Who is the end, who is the meaning, who 
is the only King.” 

Such are the elements of the religious life. Who 
of us all fulfils this life? Alas, not one! It is too 
high, too far. Just for that reason, however, is it the 
religious life. For religion is a goal, a star, a vision 
that shines forever. Religion is the “beyond.” 


04 


Chin Perils 


By Dante. A. Potinc, D.D., MARBLE COLLEGIATE REFORMED 
CHURCH, NEW YORK 


“Pride goeth before destruction.” 
—PROVERBS XVI— 18 


“The fear of man bringeth a snare.” 
—PROVERBS XXIX —25 
WO great perils, ever present though at times 
particularly apparent, are pride and fear. They 
underlie the spirit of militarism. They are respon- 
sible for secret diplomacy. They are the leading clue 
to the mystery of any nation’s reluctance to enter into 
a world court or an association of free powers; they 
undergird industrial unrest and in our individual lives 
they stand as a barrier between us and our waiting 
God. There can be no cure for the present interna- 
tional situation, there can be no remedy for sin, with- 
out reckoning with these. 

The armistice in the Great War was signed in the 
forest of Compiégne, near a village called Rethondes. 
The document was completed in a railway carriage 
which is now exhibited in Paris near the tomb of 
Napoleon. At the spot where the actual signing took 
place a monument has been erected bearing the inscrip- 
tion “Here succumbed the criminal pride of the Ger- 
man Empire.” ‘Though that inscription was written 


95 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


by the French, their haunting fear today is that the 
inscription is not true. It is this fear that makes peas- 
ants restless and statesmen sleepless. At that monu- 
ment bearing the inscription “Here succumbed the 
criminal pride of the German Empire,” pride and fear 
meet and make common cause. The pride of Germany 
humiliated and embittered, seeking revenge, walks 
arm and arm with the fear of France for her future. 
Pride and fear, these are the major forces working, 
and thus far working successfully, to complicate and 
defeat all efforts toward the reassuring of the world. 
What keeps the United States from practically all 
vital associations in world affairs? Fear, fear of what 
we choose to call “entangling alliances,” though our 
freedom from these so-called entangling alliances did 
not keep us out of one war and could not deliver us 
from another. If nothing else could force us in, pride 
would. If the next war ever comes, and God forbid, 
Pride and Fear will be again its high commanders. 
Pride is both a virtue and a vice, and the same 
may be said of fear. There is an honest pride: the 
pride that the carpenter takes in a piece of work per- 
fectly done; the pride of a mother in the virtuous 
accomplishment of her child; the pride of a patriot 
in the justice and democracy of his country. But there 
is never a time when pride does not walk perilously 
close to some pit of disaster and always it goeth before 
destruction. I have small patience with those who 
affect to despise ancestry. If your blood runs down 
from some revolutionary fountain, I congratulate you; 


96 


TWIN PERILS 


but, Sir, do not dam the stream—give it an open 
channel through. I shall never forget the youth of 
Cambridge, Mass., who just before the War, declared 
that even though he did not enlist—and this was in 
advance of selective conscription—his silence could 
not be misunderstood because his ancestors came over 
in the Mayflower! “Pride breakfasted with plenty, 
dined with poverty and supped with infamy,” said 
Benjamin Franklin. In the instance referred to, it be- 
gan with the Mayflower and ended with a callow 
cad. 

It is always difficult for pride to appreciate the 
rights and distinctions, the holy things of others. 
Pride is easily inconsiderate and unjust and talks 
glibly the language of the survival of the fittest. Its 
gospel becomes presently “the might of right.” What 
is a Louvain University or a Cathedral of Rheims 
when pride sends forth its conquering armies? 

Pride has equipped the mightiest fleets and mar- 
shalled the greatest battalions, erected the most beau- 
tiful capitals and organized the richest empires, but 
always its fleets have come upon a Sir Francis Drake; 
its armies, upon a Wellington; its capitals, upon a> 
Genghis Khan, and its empires, to dissolution. “Pride, 
is a whizzing rocket that would emulate a star,” wrote 
Wordsworth and its kingdoms have passed as the flight 
of a meteor. 

Invariably with nations, as with individuals, pride 
begets a false confidence, while it lights fires of inso- 
lence that may be seen and appraised from afar. The 


OF 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


great military powers have always accomplished their 

own downfall by overestimating themselves and by 

undervaluing their foes. At last we hear the haughtiest 

wailing with Woolsey, 

“T have ventured like little wanton boys that swim on bladders, 
This many summers in a sea of glory, 


But far beyond my depth, my high blown pride, 
At length breaks under me.” 


Do you have pride in your good health? I remem- 
ber hém standing in the sun lifting up his great chest, 
contracting his waist, and beating with his fists upon 
his mighty heart and lungs. He has been dead for a 
decade and he died at Saranac Lake. Pride it was 
that led him to run risks with his health. 

Do you have pride in your business? In the great 

success that has always accompanied your ventures? 
If you do, then watch the more closely your invest- 
ments and remember that millions may be lost 1n less 
than a minute. 
_ Do you have pride in your power? In the adulation 
of those who bow about you? At the best, power is 
of few lasting qualities, and fame, until men are dead 
for at least a generation, is as shallow as a breath. 
I am a young man, but I have seen eight presidents 
rise into the sun of our electoral glory and then quickly 
disappear. And governors! Creatures of a political 
day. 

Do you have pride in your possessions? Your home, 
your children, your work? I would not wrest the joy 
from life. I could not; but if I could, I would not. 


98 


TWIN PERILS 


God pity us when we do not have pride, but God 
pity us the more when we do not distinguish the pride 
that goeth before destruction. Some of us may even 
be proud of our humility, proud of our lack of pride. 
The sin of pride is not in possessions but in the quality 
of the mind, in the nature of its spirit. Pride, the 
most brilliant and at the same time the most futile: 
pride, great in anticipation and little or less in ful- 
fillment: pride, leading us to glory, but going before 
destruction. 

“Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud? 

Like a swift flying meteor, a fast flying cloud, 

A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave, 

Man passes from life to his rest in the grave.” 
But with this fact of pride we must deal in our own 
lives, in all our social and political relationships; 
in our most sacred religious experiences, and dealing 
with it, we should know it as one of the twin perils 
of each generation. 

I have said that fear is both a virtue and a vice, 
and I might with truth say again all that I have said— 
say of fear, what I have already declared of pride. 
Fear undermines physical as well as moral strength: 
fear leads a man to defeat in business; fear causes 
great monarchs to abdicate and winning captains to 
withdraw; and fear is the most insidious poison that 
ever enters the moral veins of youth. Every language 
is particularly rich in epigrams and proverbs featuring 
fear. The Arab writes it down thus, “The leaf cracked 
and your servant fled’’; also “Among ten men, nine are 


99 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


women.” But who of us has not found himself at 
some time or another in his life whistling to keep him- 
self from being afraid? I had passed through many 
experiences and had lived to be thirty-three before I 
ever admitted that I was a coward. But when my 
hour came, I faced the stern and ghastly fact, and from 
it there was no turning aside. J might deceive my 
enemy, I might deceive my friend, but I could not 
deceive myself. I was afraid. 

There is a fear that makes for supercourage and “‘the 
fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ Such 
fear it is that Burke had in mind when he said, ‘“‘Fear 
is the mother of safety.”” We need a world filled with 
men and women who fear to do evil; who are afraid 
lest in seeking their own good, they find another’s hurt. 
But this is another sermon. Fear with pride is a twin 
peril of our time and such fear we face today. 

“There is a virtuous fear,”’ declares Pascal, “‘which 
is the effect of faith, and there is a vicious fear which 
is the product of doubt; the former leads to hope as 
relying on God in whom we believe; the latter in- 
clines to despair, as not relying on God in whom we 
do not believe. Persons of the one character fear 
to lose God; persons of the other character fear to 
find Him.” Where do we find ourselves? In what 
class are we located? 

Does it not seem that our generation is troubled 
with international hysteria? Certainly there has been 
enough to make the nations nervous. Remember that 
pistol shot at Sarajevo! Explosions that wreck cathe- 


100 


TWIN PERILS 


drals and baptize funeral parties with the blood of 
innocent victims, revolutions that seethe among four 
hundred million yellow people, do not soothe our al- 
ready overtaxed nerves. And international politics 
but reflect our individual lives and our personal rela- 
tionships. We are living today in an atmosphere of 
terror. Returning to our apartment, I saw that drilling 
operations at the foundation of the building to be 
erected immediately at the north were practically com- 
pleted and that the contractor was ready for dynamite. 
Instinctively I questioned, ‘““What is the chance of 
that disturbing our building?’ We no longer take 
anything for granted. We live, not in trust, but in 
terror. And remember: those who so live so die! The 
individual who is afraid to eat lest he be poisoned 
starves, or what he does swallow disagrees with him. 
The business man who continues to distrust his asso- 
ciates inevitably governs his transactions with them 
accordingly and is distrusted by them. The man who 
looks into every dark corner for an enemy and never 
finds one is vastly worse off than the happy-go-lucky 
individual who stumbles at last into an ambush. The 
latter was at least happy until his trouble came, though 
I admonish you against emulating and following either 
ofthe: two.) But sich ifear as'\a\pestilence/and ia 
delusion. 

Meetings of Communists are to me always sad spec- 
tacles. The American form of government is easily 
the most generous and successful, yet evolved and put 
into effect by the mind of man. Its only real failures 


101 


IF | HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


are failures: due to the indifference and neglect of its 
citizens. Its wrongs are all redressable without appeal 
to force or revolution. Its genius is progressive and 
allows for adjustment and change to meet the needs 
of the ever advancing social order. Class rule, for 
which Communists call, is equally futile and evil, 
whether it is the rule of the Communist, or of a feudal 
group. Its government will inevitably fall of its own 
weight. | 

But sad as these Communist meetings are, an infi- 
nitely sadder spectacle would be the denial of the free 
speech guarantees of the American Constitution. The 
Communist at last defeats his own vicious purpose. 
Gag Freedom and she will go mad. Give her a voice 
and above every sophistry of violence and selfishness, 
however loudly their spokesmen cry, she will declare 
the truth. The Constitution of the United States is 
a document of faith, not of fear. 

Fear prompts nations to begin again the mad and 
futile race in navy building and military enlargement. 
Futile, I say, and mad, for it leads, if continued in, 
to destruction for us all. We are bound by fallacies 
and we are blind to the tragedies of history as well 
as deaf to the clear teachings of Christ if we do not 
actively support every honest effort to bring the na- 
tions into agreement. “They that take the sword shall 
perish by the sword” is not the word of a man: it is 
the judgment of God. 

Consider the origin of fear. It is born either in 
ignorance or sin. Ignorance and sin! The world’s ugli- 


102 


TWIN PERILS 


est twins! Time’s most vicious brothers. Beyond the 
dim Azores lay mystery, the cloud-hung, storm-com- 
passed unknown, and men were afraid. Fear it was 
that lighted the fires of hell against the unbroken 
horizon of the West. Fear it was that filled the waters 
with monsters. Fear—yes, and pride too—the pride 
that was ashamed to acknowledge cowardice; the pride 
that sent the Phcenician home with a terrifying ex- 
planation for the failure of his quest. We do not 
despise these early mariners; we only the more ac- 
knowledge the intrepid Norseman and the indomitable 
Genoan who swept through these last barriers to find 
the end of the world. Fear is the final foe of man 
and it raises the walls of its defense with the granite 
of ignorance in the mortar of sin. “Ye shall know, 
know the truth and be free” is the oracle of God: free 
from the terrors of vast spaces, free from the chains 
of mysteries, free from the bondage of superstitions. 
“And ye shall know me, know my redemption, my 
forgiveness, my purification and be free from that 
superbondage, the bondage of sin’; this is the voice 
of Jesus, the Christ—our Saviour. Here is the sublime 
opportunity of the Christian Church. Pride goeth 
before destruction, but perfect love casteth out fear. 
Jesus conquered the world when He humbled Himself 
and when girded, not with a buckler but with a 
towel, washed His disciples’ feet. Love conquers both 
pride and fear and love is the ruling principle, the 
master passion, of the Christian faith. 

Let us face the stern, unpleasant, the ugly fact. 


103 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


We of the Church have failed, have failed Jesus 
Christ, failed our fellows, failed our world. He counts 
on us; He has no other plan; He wins with us or He 
loses: But we have not seen, we have not preached, 
we have not practiced as we should, the absolute neces- 
sity for love in all the aspects and places of life: We 
have repeated but we have not lived His last and 
great commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy 
God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself.” 
We have seemed in our living to say, ‘“The words and 
principles of Christ will do for repeating, will do for 
idealizing, but in practical life we must recognize the 
grim realities of fear and pride.” Yea, and recognize 
them without trying to correct them. This has been 
our philosophy. I say that it is a philosophy of sophis- 
try, a philosophy of Bael and we call ourselves Chris- 
tians! What has it done for us? What has zt done 
for us¢ It has given us a world of red-running fron- 
tiers and military laboratories working overtime to 
produce the deadliest gases. It has given us classes 
poisoning the springs of social life against each other. 
It has given us family anarchy, disrespect for law, dis- 
regard for the rights and the possessions of others and 
a certain lewdness of mind that has hung a curtain 
before the holy fires that should burn ceaselessly upon 
our altars. 

We must halt; we must right-about-face; we must 
march with Jesus: this sophistry must be denied: this 
false God of so-called ‘‘Practicability” must be thrown 
down. Christianity is not a profession; it is a confes- 


104 


TWIN PERILS 


sion. For better and for worse, in adversity as in 
prosperity, for individuals and for nations, it knows 
and presents a force which can cast out both pride and 
fear, a force which replaces each with a higher pride 
and a deeper fear—the fear of unworthiness rather 
than of personal injury; the pride of serving rather 
than of being served; the fear of God and dread of 
sin; the pride of human brotherhood and of sonship 
through Jesus Christ. | 


105 


“S$ Am a Vebrew” 


By Ragpsar Leon Harrison, TEMPLE ISRAEL, ST. LOUIS 


JONAH I~9 


HE ringing cry of Jonah is my text and theme. 
“T am a Hebrew.” I am a living link in the 
infinite chain that stretches from the Rock of Sinai to 
the Rock of Plymouth. I spring from Israel, the 
mother of Prophets, from Israel, the despised and 
rejected of men, yet the more unswervingly the Gladia- 
tor of God. This high calling of the Jew is stamped 
upon his very body; it speaks in the bent of his mind, 
and in an exaltation and divine fire that kept this 
harried witness of the Eternal alive through hostile 
ages, proudly proclaiming in the midst of what is 
called a Christian civilization, “I am a Hebrew.” 
But the world will curiously ask, what do these 
words mean in the mouth of a modern Jew? Do they 
avow a religious or a race affiliation? Do they indi- 
cate a free choice, or a passive reaction to heredity, 
training and outward pressure, as William James bril- 
hantly maintained in his famous essay, “The Will to 
Believe’? Is the Jew passively swayed by this Will 
to Believe? Or does he freely choose among all live 
alternatives the faith of his fathers? 
And my answer is, that the Jew, in his loyalty to 


106 


“I AM A HEBREW” 


his ancient traditions, responds, like all other men, 
to both of these powerful influences. In his mind there 
is a passive will to believe, woven out of many 
strands; and an active will to believe, equally cogent 
and compelling. We will follow the logical order 
of influences, in considering first the passive Will to 
Believe, as it operates to attach the Jew of today to 
the religion of his fathers. 


I 


Now among these passive forces ancestry takes the 
foremost place. Every man remains, for the most 
part, what he is born. He inherits generally his social 
class, his fatherland, and various preconceived ideas, 
religious, political, and otherwise. Feligion is rarely 
a choice deliberately made as at an intellectual em- 
porium. It is an inheritance. This is as true of the 
average Catholic and Protestant as it is of the Jew; 
it is equally true of the various sects of Protestantism. 
Men are born into them; and many subtle associations 
both endear and sanctify these early religious impres- 
sions. The phrase, ‘the God of our Fathers,” so com- 
mon in the Hebrew Bible and Ritual, shall equally 
belong in the world’s newest Scriptures and in every 
conceivable liturgy. And this is doubly true in a faith, 
which like Judaism is peculiarly a family religion,— 
a faith which even without the Synagogue could be 
perpetuated at the domestic altar. This is especially 
true further of Judaism, because of the unusual filial 
reverence, still common in Jewish homes, that greatly 


107 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


honors and loves not only the father, but the father’s 
faith. We strongly feel, even when we do not clearly 
analyze, the force of ancestry that is foremost among 
the constituent elements of the passive Will to 
Believe. 

The other elements in this attitude are associated 
with the first, and partly flow therefrom. I mention 
next the Jewish consciousness, the historic conscious- 
ness of the Jew, only a sentiment perhaps, yet how © 
powerful a sentiment! It is the consciousness in a 
member of the race of its almost inconceivable an- 
tiquity, of its romantic and picturesque annals upon 
its own soil, its rise to power, its points of contact 
with imperial world-currents, and then its tragic down- 
fall. And the historic imagination recalls how this 
catastrophe, the grave of any ordinary people, became 
for this strange race the cradle of a new spiritual 
life; how they went forth as homeless exiles over 
the world’s highways and byways, outlasting the Egypt 
that conquered them, the Rome that destroyed them; 
and though the weakest of homeless peoples, master- 
ing and transforming even their persecutors with their 
spiritual influence. The historic consciousness beholds 
them, not worn out, but wearing out civilizations and 
dominions, ancient and medieval. And this longevity 
has not been like the gift to Tithonus of immortal 
life without immortal youth, who thus was cursed with 
eternal senility. The everlasting Jew has continued 
to generate master-minds and prophet-souls. Poets, 


philosophers and leaders of the highest class have 
108 


“T AM A HEBREW” 


sprung from Israel’s loins in every century, medieval 
and modern. And today the ancient Synagogue stands 
firm, with its old thought that is yet so new, clustered 
about with immemorial traditions of a great and won- 
derful past that we cannot feel has in any serious 
measure exhausted the possibilities of Israel. This 
vista spans two worlds and countless generations. The 
history of our people is written in every tongue, and 
has enriched the spiritual and intellectual treasures 
of every people. The rude inscriptions in the Jewish 
catacombs outside the gates of Rome recall their 
fidelity under the pagan emperors; the old-new Syna- 
gogue in Prague, standing for a thousand years, is still 
dim with tragic memories and dank with the blood of 
countless Jewish martyrs. And after all these horrors 
and tears, we behold near the ruined gateway of the 
ancient Roman ghetto, wherein night by night the 
Popes of Rome locked up their Jewish serfs until 
temporal power passed from them in 1868—close at 
hand we see the new marble Synagogue wherein might 
worship not so long ago a Jewish Mayor of the Eter- 
nal City, and a Jewish Prime Minister of United 
Italy. 

This tremendous panorama, with its dramatic con- 
trasts, with its infinite variety, with its strange vicis- 
situdes, appeals powerfully to the historic sense; and 
intensifies the Jewish consciousness of him who reads 
the storied pages of Israel’s Past. 

And this instinctive allegiance is given not only 


109 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


strength, but a certain sanctity by community of suf- 
fering. We value highest that for which we have paid 
the greatest price; there is no bond like the brother’s 
bond of a common sorrow. And when men have en- 
dured physical penalties followed by age-long disa- 
bilities, and even in enlightened lands the petty mar- 
tyrdom of social stigma, they are naturally not only 
consolidated into a closer unity, but into a deeper loy- 
alty to that for which they have endured so much. 
There are men of Jewish blood that possess perhaps 
but little faith in Israel’s spiritual heirlooms, and yet 
they are faithful to their people’s cause, responsive 
to the cry of the needy and oppressed, because they 
are stung by the world’s inhumanity and injustice; 
and therefore whether with or without religious en- 
thusiasm, stand loyally by the people with whom they 
have a common heritage. 

They are instinctively drawn likewise toward a 
religious system which, having sprung from the genius 
of their race, is adapted to the genius of their race. 
This idea is potent in influencing the Will to Believe. 
For the Will to Believe is not mental as much as it is 
temperamental; and a religion thus that mirrors the 
idiosyncrasies of a people that are practically un- 
changed by the passing ages, naturally interests and 
influences that people. Why then should a man of 
such an historic stock go further afield to choose a 
faith that is not his, that does not outmerit his own? 
He surely does not cold-bloodedly weigh pro’s and 


110 


“T AM A HEBREW” 


con’s in his religious choice. For religion is not brain- 
born but heart-woven. It springs from the totality of 
the race-consciousness, of the historic consciousness; 
it appeals to that from which it arises, and affects 
thus potently, though passively, our Will to Believe. 


II 


But religion would be but a poor weak thing were 
it only the passive acceptance of our fathers’ faith; 
were it only an historic charge; our resentment against 
undeserved pain; just an adaptation of an historic 
growth to the temperament of a people. It surely 
means much more than that to all whose convictions 
are worth-while. For however much religion, that 
deals with the Infinite, eludes our active reason simply 
because it transcends it, it does not elude our active 
Will. Indeed the primary appeal of a religion accep- 
table to the modern mind is to the Will—the Will 
that acts, that seeks to approach or to attain the prac- 
tical ideals of an ethical religion; and the Will also 
that consciously and deliberately accepts those ideals 
and the philosophy of the Universe upon which they 
rest. The energy of our religious convictions corre- 
sponds to the energy of character with which we es- 
pouse the teachings of religion; as well as the energy 
with which we execute those teachings when they re- 
late, as they should—indeed as they do in Judaism— 
to realizable ideals. We will therefore endeavor to 


enumerate the prime factors that influence our active 
Will to Believe. 


Lid 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


The first of them flows from all the preceding ones. 
Ancestry, the historic consciousness, community of suf- 
fering, the feeling of temperamental unity with the 
race and faith, awaken an active sense of loyalty. 
Loyalty is the passionate devotion of all fine natures 
to a cause that rightly claims their allegiance, whether 
that cause be patriotic, political, religious, or one 
concerning the duties of personal friendship. And a 
taproot of elemental loyalties should be surely com- 
munity of birth, a common past, noble traditions; in- 
deed the very unpopularity of the cause espoused, 
its need of succor and staunch support; its need of 
generous and self-forgetting chivalry. The noble na- 
ture feels that the harder is the task, the holier is 
the call. The fewer are the champions of a forlorn 
hope, the more fervid must ae be, and the finer 
their devotion. 

Without loyalty, no really splendid character 1s 
conceivable, and no continuous moral progress is possi- 
ble. Without it there can be no community of effort; 
no successive inspirations that bind the ages together, 
and slope the history of the world upward. Loyalty 
to a hard task, to a cause that will be rated as its 
champions are rated, with no worldly encouragement 
from the experience of the Past, with no immediate 
prospect of a dramatic change for the better in the 
fortune and prestige of that cause—loyalty under such 
circumstances, is alike the duty and the finest badge 
of the true gentleman. It is his sacred honor, the 

Lag 


“JT AM A HEBREW” 


credentials of his Knighthood. Loyalty, freely chosen 
and steadfast against all odds, is the first fine fruitage 
of the active Will to Believe. 

But loyalty, too, may seem in a sense instinctive. 
It may seem to some a devotion into which we rather 
drift than direct ourselves. But surely not, when even 
as a post-factum influence our faith is confirmed by 
reason, though not actually created thereby; when we 
realize that it is in harmony with the science of our 
age and with the philosophy of all ages; when we who 
are Jews, with critical minds, estimate none the less 
because of this, the faith of a skeptical race, tested 
and sifted by the operation of that law of the human 
mind, operating in the direction of a minimum of 
belief, that Sir William Hamilton called the “Law 
of Parsimony.”’ Our instructed intelligence will not 
pick flaws in a religion that is not only partially 
but structurally ethical; and whose ethics are essen- 
tially social and not individualistic, as indeed the lat- 
est thinking of our own generation demands; and 
whose whole religious system is pragmatic in the 
sense that it is not held authentic or worthy of ac- 
ceptance save in its direct relationship and inspiration 
to action. 

That religion surely has powerful claims alike on 
our mind and on our Will whose tenets the world at 
large is not forsaking but approaching; whose stand- 
point is that with which the Liberal Church is more 
and more completely identified; whose idea of univer- 


bie 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


sal Unity in one form or another runs through all 
the scientific and philosophic thinking of our day. Rea- 
son must surely influence our active Will to Believe 
in that which is so essentially reasonable. 


III 


We have spoken of the passive Will to Believe and 
of the active Will to Believe. Does it not occur to 
you that the Will to Believe is largely a result of the 
need to believe? And as there is a need in our human 
nature and life to believe some things, so there is 
equally a need and a corresponding will in our men- 
tal constitution zor to believe other things. In a word, 
a religion is distinguished as much by its negations 
as by its affirmations. And Judaism especially has 
been a religion of protest, a protest against certain 
current theological assumptions that run counter to 
the bent and genius of Israel, and to what the his- 
toric sense of Israel believes to be the truth, the high- 
est truth absolutely, and also in its practical relation 
to human welfare. It is of considerable interest there- 
fore, to consider not only Israel’s will to believe, but 
his will not to believe. And invariably in such dis- 
cussions as this therefore, in connection with the ques- 
tion Why I am a Jew, the further question is asked, 
why are you not a Christian? 

But this question is essentially polemical. And fur- 
ther it is a very extensive one. Today we can give it 
only a passing answer. 


114 


“IT AM A HEBREW” 


Are we asked to accept a superior ethical system 
in the New Testament as compared with the Old, 
when without regard to the correctness of this com- 
parison, the fact is generally ignored that several 
crowded centuries separate the end of the Hebrew 
Scriptures from the beginning of the Christian Gospels, 
and during that period, Jewish ethics and the Hebrew 
spiritual outlook also grew, as evidenced in the un- 
familiar pages of the Midrash and the Talmud? 

Are we recommended to change our religious dogmas 
and thus to score an advance? Is the Trinity then a 
higher conception than that of the Divine Unity, at- 
tested by the uniformities of science, and the oneness 
of the Moral Law? Is the Incarnation an advance 
upon the stern Hebraic insistence upon the absolute 
spirituality of the Godhead? Does the idea of the Fall 
of Man surpass the Jewish doctrine of man’s moral 
worth and freedom as made in the image of his Cre- 
ator, and dowered by Him with both a knowledge 
of His will and the power to execute it? 

Are we asked to abandon so-called tribalism for 
the broader and more real brotherhood of Christianity ? 
We sometimes wonder whether it is the brotherhood 
of religious wars and bloody persecutions for religion’s 
sake that even today have not perished from the earth. 
Is it the brotherliness of the Spanish Inquisition? | 

And if one sought to become a Christian, how should / 


he choose between warring churches that fill the air > © 


with mutual denunciations; between rival forms of 


115 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


baptism; between antagonistic creeds; between ecclesi- 
astical authorities in eternal strife? 

Can you tell me how my religious lot would be thus 
bettered; wherein my ethical ideals would be exalted 
or my spiritual conceptions purified, or my doctrines 
made loftier and more rational? Has the attitude of 
the Christian Church to the Synagogue, or that of the 
Christian in all ages to the Jew, taught by example 
the higher Brotherhood of Man? 

Until therefore I deem that a better religion is of- 
fered to my acceptance, I will to believe my own. In 
this direction flow my passive inclinations, and my 
active choice; to this incline me equally the nega- 
tions and the affirmations of the Faith of my Fathers. 

I will to believe and I must believe in the Unity 
of God; in His progressive revelation throughout the 
ages; in His direct relation to man without inter- 
mediaries; in salvation not by creed but by deed. 

I will to believe and I must believe as a Jew, in the 
historic mission of my people, a prophet-people and a 
priest-people, that has begotten great world-religions 
as well as its own peculiar Faith. I believe that Israel 
is to be not a privileged people, but a pattern-people; 
that its sufferings are to be a discipline; that it is 
not to cease prophesying or teaching until there shall 
arise the Kingdom of God upon earth. 

Thus alike the passive Will to Believe and the ac- 
tive Will to Believe, and also the Will not to believe 
have kept us firm in the faith of our fathers; partly 
because we must be what we are; and partly because 


116 


“IT AM A HEBREW” 


we can justify the faith that is in us, and because 
among alternatives that we will not and cannot believe, 
this is the only live possibility for our soul’s choice. 
And that is why I am a Jew, and please God will 
remain one; until with the last movement of lips stif- 
fening in death shall leap forth the ancient cry, “Hear 
O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One.” 


117 


V Che Curse of Cynicism 


By Harry Emerson Fospicx, D.D., PARK AVENUE BAPTIST 
CHURCH, NEW YORK 


“Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” 
—PSALMS I=-1 


HRIST’S way of life is having a difficult time 
in this world. What is the trouble? I propose 
the thesis that not so much intellectual scepticism as 
moral cynicism is the chief enemy of Christianity. The 
great difficulty is not so much that people theoretically 
disbelieve the propositions on which Christian living 1s 
based but that they live in another moral world alto- 
gether and find Christian living practically unreal. 
Some time ago, so I am told, an artist and a timber 
merchant stood together watching a glorious sunset 
throw its lingering light over a forest gorgeous with 
autumnal colors. After a long silence, the artist said, 
“Tt is glorious, isn’t it?” to which the merchant replied, 
“Yes, that is great timber; I reckon that allowing 
for felling and transportation it ought to work out 
to about eighty cents a foot.” That merchant did not 
theoretically disbelieve the propositions on which the 
artist’s judgment rested; he simply lived in another 
world altogether. 
Such is the chief obstacle that confronts Christ’s 


118 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 


way of life. There is, to be sure, plenty of downright 
intellectual scepticism, but for the most part people 
do not stop to argue against Christianity; they merely 
live in their own world, which is altogether differ- 
ent from Christianity, so that when Christian ideals 
of life are obtruded on them they sit, as the first 
Psalm puts it, “in the seat of the scornful.” 

That this attitude negatives all that Christ stood 
for is obvious. He never sat in the seat of the scorn- 
ful. He believed in persons, even bad persons, whom 
others gave up. He believed in the possibility of a 
righteous society here on earth, where God’s will would 
be done. He believed in the power of moral forces 
to achieve this victory and, turning His back on cyni- 
cal chicanery and violence, trusted Himself to good- 
will and love to the point of utter sacrifice. And so 
believing in persons and in their spiritual resources, 
He enthroned personality at the heart of the universe 
and called God His Father. 

To be sure, Jesus knew all the devilishness of men. 
He drank to the dregs the cup of their contumely 
and brutality. There is nothing we could tell Him 
that He would not understand about the stupidity and 
cruelty of our race. But, for all that, His faith in 
people, in social possibilities, in the efficacy of moral 
forces, and in the good God never wavered. Obviously, 
therefore, there is nothing that more completely con- 
tradicts and obliterates what Christ stood for than 
cynically to sit in the seat of the scornful. 

Our failure to recognize moral cynicism as our chief 


119 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


enemy is responsible for the fact that much of our 
preaching goes wide of the mark. We often preach as 
though we had on our hands some Robert Ingersoll 
with his lusty agnosticism; whereas what we really 
» have on our hands is H. L. Mencken splitting his sides 
laughing at us. We frequently talk as though we were 
trying to save religion from Tom Paine, whereas Tom 
Paine is long dead and what Christianity faces is 
Lothrop Stoddard and his cynical gospel that we are 
the people, and his contempt for lesser breeds. We 
continually talk as though we had to construct theo- 
retical arguments for religion, whereas what the peo- 
ple are reading is Sinclair Lewis having a riotous time 
burlesquing religion and putting an inconceivably vile 
rotter into the Christian pulpit. We attack scepticism 
when our most popular and powerful enemy is cyni- 
cism and, as another has said, cynicism is the devil. 
Let us not shrink from making this fact real in con- 
crete terms. American family life is in a bad way 
and any one who watches the rising proportion of di- 
vorces and notes the consequences to our artificially 
orphaned children may well be anxious about the fu- 
ture. But if anybody thinks that the trouble is the- 
orists conducting an argumentative campaign against 
monogamy, he is off the track. Theorists are not our 
chief trouble. Our trouble is a flood tide of moral 
cynicism. Read our newspapers; go to the theaters 
and movies; pick up our magazines and novels. You 
would suspect that most husbands are unclean, most 
wives unhappy, and all marriages more or less rotten. 


120 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 


With a singular unanimity of cynical disparagement 
the most popular agencies of propaganda that we have 
are doing to American family life exactly what 
Vivien’s tongue did to the Round Table in Tennyson’s 
Idylls of the King; it raged 


ce 


. .. Like a fire among the noblest names, 
Polluting, and imputing her whole self, 
Defaming and defacing, till she left 

Not even Lancelot brave, nor Galahad clean.” 


In a kindred realm it is quite obvious that stand- 
ards of sex relationship which only a few years ago 
seemed secure, at least as ideals of life, are blatantly 
discredited. What is the trouble? Has a group of 
theorists succeeded in proving that sexual promiscuity 
is advantageous to the race, that free love is to be the 
salvation of society? Of course not. Our enemy is 
of another caliber. Bernarr MacFadden and his ilk, 
with their pernicious magazines and tabloids, are not 
philosophers; they are cynics. They have found the 
road to money through the passions of the people. 
There has often been in history a type of person upon 
whom the just condemnation of right-minded people 
has been visited: the panderers namely, who rose to 
place and power by ministering to the lowest vices of 
their masters, Roman emperors or French monarchs. 
Today that same type of character emerges, winning 
money by ministering to the lowest vices, not of the 
monarch but of the mob, not of the aristocracy but 
of the democracy. 

In another realm, any one who cares about the wel- 


121 


’ 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


fare of the race must be concerned about our inter- 
national turmoil. Our dove of peace, like her ancient 
ancestress from Noah’s ark, would have difficulty in 
discovering a single solid place to land amid our 
flood of bitterness and hate. What is the trouble? Is 
it that the people are theoretically for war as against 
peace? Not in the least. The Bernhardis are few 
in number. The trouble is a deep-seated and wide- 
spread moral cynicism about international relation- 
ships. Listen to this from a popular magazine with 
a circulation of a million and a quarter: 


“The time for discussing the right and wrong of the for- 
eign attitude toward America is past. Only the fact that 
we are universally hated, counts. With all our neighbors 
looking for a chance to break into our melon patch, carry off 
the fruit, and trample on the vines, it is time to train a couple 
of bulldogs and load the shotgun, and not to talk of brotherly 
love toward those who hate and despitefully use us.” 


That is essential cynicism and its quality is infernal. 

Multitudes of people live habitually in this realm 
of which we have been speaking. They eat, drink, and 
breathe cynicism. They are enfolded by it as by an 
atmosphere. When, then, they venture into or are 
dragged into a Christian church and hear, let us say, 
the beatitudes read, “‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for 
they shall see God. Blessed are they that hunger 
and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled,” 
it is not so much that they theoretically disbelieve 
the propositions on which such thinking rests as that 
they cannot understand it. They are like pygmies 


122 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 


from the center of Africa listening to Keats’ “Ode on 
a Grecian Urn.” 

Probably a good deal of this prevalent cynicism is 
a post-war reaction and we need not be too discour- 
aged about it. Niagara Falls is a great affair but 
those who, like myself, spent their boyhood within 
easy reach of it know that there is something there 
more tremendous than the Falls itself; namely, the 
Whirlpool Rapids below the Falls. It takes many a 
mile of tempestuous turmoil after the Falls to get 
to the peace of Lake Ontario. Well, the Great War 
was Niagara Falls and we still are in the rapids. Let 
us take account of that fact and see what the con- 
sequent cynicism is doing to us. There is none of us 
who, if he searches his conscience, will not find cyni- 
cism one of the most powerful and seductive enemies 
of his Christian life. 

In the first place, there is a conflict between cyni- 
cism, on the one side, and faith in people and their 
possibilities, on the other. ~ SW 

Cynicism about people is easy to excuse. When 
Carlyle said that England’s population was mostly 
fools he expressed a mood we all know. David said 
in his haste that all men were liars but we are tempted 
to say the same thing upon mature deliberation. 
Merely to be Pollyannas about this race is incredible; 
there are too many morons, too many crooks. Indeed, 
Jesus himself said some terrific things about people: 
“Beware of men’’; “Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, 
how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?” ‘Woe 


123 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! ... 
It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the 
day of judgment, than for you.” And once, in a dread- 
ful passage, he said that in dealing with men one 
could lay pearls before swine and give that which 
is holy unto dogs. Nevertheless, when you have said 
your worst about people, there is something the matter 
with cynicism. What is it? 

No man can practice cynicism on everybody else 
long before it begins to turn in upon himself. Cyni- 
~cism is a disease which, if a man play with it out- 
wardly, he is bound to catch inwardly. The cynic 
becomes cynical about himself and then he finds out 
what cynicism is. It is a fatal blight. It kills joy; it 
saps sanity; it stops life. A man who has become a 
cynic about himself is done. 

If any of us amounts to anything it is because there 
were people who had faith in us. When we were babes, 
with all our possibilities of good and evil still un- 
revealed, some people had faith in us. And such faith 
is creative. It is one of the most supremely creative 
forces in this world. It does to a child what the spring 
sun and rain have been doing to the earth this last 
week: it brings out into leaf and flower what is latent 
there. But cynicism is a freezing thing and if it sur- 
rounds a child he will have no springtime for his 
mental or his moral power. In this sense, therefore, 
every one of us has been created by faith. You may 
be eminent and successful but you know well that 
there were times when you could have gone all to 


124 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 


pieces. You had it in you, as I had it in me, to make 
a desperate mess of life, and if we did not you know 
why: there were people who were not cynical about 
us, who tirelessly kept on having faith in us. 

Let us get our eyes, then, clearly on this initial 
fact, that cynicism and faith are real forces. They 
effectually accomplish things in this world. Cynicism 
damns men; faith creates men. A cynical generation 
is one in which you can no more expect great man- 
hood and womanhood to grow than you could expect 
tropical forests at the North Pole, and when a man 
against the present prevalence of cynicism pleads for 
faith in people he is pleading for the very life of the 
generation. 

Now, cynicism always gathers to itself a philosophy 
and makes itself sound erudite. Cynicism has been 
doing that recently with reference to faith in people. 
It has developed the doctrine that heredity is every- 
thing, that we have the heredity, that we therefore are 
the chosen people and that, therefore, the Nordics 
should always slap themselves upon the chest and 
despise lesser breeds. Lothrop Stoddard has talked 
so much about that that one would like to try an 
experiment with Lothrop Stoddard himself. One 
would like to take Lothrop Stoddard when he was six 
months old and exchange him for a negro baby in the 
heart of Africa, of a similar age, and then let Lothrop 
Stoddard grow up in the negro tribe and let the negro 
child grow up in the finest Anglo-Saxon environment. 
Would heredity be everything? You know well that 


125 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Lothrop Stoddard would grow up a cannibal, that he 
would be afraid of ghosts and believe in witch doc- 
tors, that he would marry ten wives if he could possibly 
gain money enough to buy them, that he would eat 
his meat raw, and be petrified with fright the first 
time he saw an automobile, if he ever should see one. 
And you know well that the same night Lothrop Stod- 
dard died of fright at a witch doctor’s curse the negro 
who had been exchanged for him might very possibly 
put on evening dress and have a wonderful time lis- 
tening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Heredity 
everything? That is nonsense. 

You take an adventurous, courageous, high-spirited 
boy and let him be brought up in certain sections of 
New York and Brooklyn and he is likely to become 
a gangster, his highest ambition to pull off a resound- 
ing crime. And you let that same boy be brought up 
in a fine home and he will probably have another set 
of ambitions altogether. The same water, my friends, 
can make very different kinds of stream. 

Heredity is important. Just as Jesus said, some 
start with one talent, some with five talents, some with 
ten. That is important.. But what is more important 
than blood heredity is the social heritage under the con- 
stant pressure of which we grow up. 

It is not simply a matter of idealism, therefore, but 
of common sense to rise above this cheap and easy 
cynicism about our human stock into faith in its posst- 
bilities. I recall a vow that I made during the War in 
France. God forgive me that I ever forgot it! As I 


126 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 


watched those boys come up from the ends of the earth, 
from every tribe and tongue and people under heaven, 
and saw the way they stood the gaff of that terrible 
situation, I vowed that never again would I be cynical 
about the possibilities of the human stock. It is essen- 
tially sound, and it would be magnificent if we could 
achieve a society that would treat all men decently 
from the time they are born. 

I spent the other evening on East Third Street with 
a club of criminals that the Marshall Stillman Move- 
ment has gathered together. Every member of that 
club has a prison. record. Nobody can be a mem- 
ber of that club without a criminal record. They made 
me an honorary member! Those ex-convicts are 
refreshing men. They helped to reéstablish my faith 
in humanity. No man, they say, has ever come from 
prison, joined that club, and then gone wrong again. 
And as I came home from that evening with crimi- 
nals, I found myself singing the words of an old negro 
spiritual, ‘All God’s Chillun Got Wings.” Yes, they 
have. The wings may be embryonic; they may be so 
tightly folded you would not guess their presence; 
they may be sadly broken: but “all God’s chillun got 
wings.” At any rate, so far as I am concerned, I am 
going to live on the basis not of cynicism but of faith 
in people. You are sure I shall be fooled again and 
again. You are right. I shall be. That prodigal 
son may not come home, no matter how hard I believe 
in him, but I had rather be fooled nine times and then 
once believe in him so effectively that he will arise and 


17 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


go unto his father. And, mark it! there is no use in 
talking about being a disciple of Jesus if you are too 
cynical to do that. 

In the second place, we all have within us a conflict 
between cynicism, on the one side, and faith in social 
' possibilities, upon the other. It is not strange that we 
should. When one thinks of what we fought the War 
to get and then what we got, when one watches the 
hardness of our economic struggle, the rancor of our 
inter-racial prejudices and the bitterness of our inter- 
national life, one is inevitably tempted to be cynical. 
And yet every healthy-minded man knows there is 
something the matter with cynicism. What is it? 

For one thing, as a matter of history the cynics 
have uniformly turned out to be wrong. The cynics 
said we never could have a democratic government but 
always must live under absolute monarchy. Well, we 
have had trouble enough with democracy and it is a 
pretty chaotic mess yet, but there is no one of us who 
would go back where the cynics said we had to stay. 
The cynics said we never could be rid of chattel slav- 
ery and they lifted the cry, “Cotton is king?” as 
though that settled it. But cotton was not king. And 
while, to be sure, the freeing of the slave has not 
proved an unqualified success, there is not one of us 
who would dream of going back. The cynics said we 
never could have public schools and berated with scorn 
the paternalistic policy that proposed to take education 
away from the monopoly of private institutions and 
try to give a chance to all the children of all the 


128 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 


people. But we did it. It is one of the proudest 
things we ever did and, so far from going back, we 
certainly are going on. 

Cynics always start by posing as hard-headed wise 
men, and they always end by being soft-headed fools; 
that is one trouble with cynicism. 

Can we be mistaken in thinking that that same thing 
is going to happen now? Look at our economic situa- 
tion, for example. You know the cynics who say that 
business and morals have nothing to do with each 
other. Business, they think, is a hard, cruel war and 
it is nothing else. They are vexed when a minister 
talks even about applications of the Golden Rule te 
business. They are the hard-headed, shrewd, canny, 
wise men. “Business is business,” they say. But is it? 

Look at Russia in the throes of her gigantic and sig- 
nificant revolution. That economic revolution stands 
for the thing to which the whole Western world will 
almost certainly turn unless capitalism in this new 
generation can be made to serve more than it has the 
vital interests of the whole body of the people. But 
we in America are not much disturbed about that. We 
do not think that Bolshevism has much chance at us 
here. Why hasn’t it? The reason is clear. American 
business, partly because it has had some wise leader- 
ship, partly because its hand has been forced by or- 
ganized’labor, partly because we have had a rich and 
enormously productive country to exploit, has shared 
the gains of industry with the people over a wider area 
than ever before in modern times. More people reap 


129 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


more of the fruits of the nation’s work than in any 
other land. I am far from being satisfied about our 
economic situation, as you know, but at least this is 
true: little by little wages have been raised; little by 
little laboring conditions have been improved; owner- 
ship of business has spread out over the population and 
the gains of business have been shared by the general 
public; little by little codperative measures have given 
more people something to say about the conduct of the 
industry that their life depends on. We are a long 
way from the ideal but not since the great machines 
came into use have so many people reaped so large a 
proportion of the nation’s industry as here. 

That economic justice which we have so far man- 
aged to achieve is our one safety. We are as safe as 
we have been just and we are not one bit safer. Busi- 
ness is not business in the long run. Business is morals. 
Our security in this country today runs up to the boun- 
dary line of our economic justice and it does not run 
one inch beyond it. Our one bulwark against violent 
economic revolution is not our hardness, nor our 
shrewdness, nor our ability to keep any one down. Our 
one bulwark against violent economic revolution is the 
degree to which we have worked out fair play in in- 
dustry. Therefore, a man has not simply ideals behind 
him but facts when he says to business: ‘“Go on, raise 
wages wherever and whenever you can, improve labor- 
ing conditions as though your lives depended on it, 
cause ever wider areas of the people more largely to 
share in the fruits of industry, widen your codperative 


130 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 


measures that more of the workers may have a demo- 
cratic share in the conduct of the work to which they 
give their lives.’”’ Believe me or not, Jesus was a great 
economist. You found business on selfish shrewdness 
and inside of two generations you will lose business. 
You found business on fair play and even amid the 
economic revolution of the world you are likely to 
keep it. 

Cynicism is not wisdom; it is suicide. It is suicide 
in two realms. If we are so cynical that we will not 
found industry on the Golden Rule, we will lose in- 
dustry, and if we are so cynical that we will not found 
international life on codperative measures like the 
League of Nations and the World Court we will lose 
civilization in the next war. And I suggest this epi- 
taph for civilization’s tomb: They sat in the seat of 
the scornful. 

Finally, there is in every one of us a conflict between 
cynicism and faith in God, faith in the spiritual mean- 
ing of the universe. For you cannot keep cynicism in 
a compartment. If a man starts by being cynical about 
people and about social causes, he will ultimately be 
cynical about the whole significance of life. In the 
pulpit we are habitually sorry about or angry at those 
materialistic philosophers who in university classrooms 
teach agnosticism to our youth. But no philosopher 
starts materialism. Philosophers simply sum up and 
formulate its mental consequences. Materialism starts 
in the practical world where people really live. One 
of our college athletes, who capitalized his football 


131 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ability and cleaned up in a single year several times 
the amount of President Coolidge’s salary, has put it 
neatly for us. “There are still dreamers,” he says, 
“but they are deadened by the thought embodied in the 
phrase ‘What is there in it for me?’—which is the 
great American slogan now.” 

That is where materialism starts, in the realm where 
ipeople say, What is there in it for me? But it does 
not stop there. It grows like a upas tree until it covers 
the earth and reaches up to heaven. Then a cynical 
philosophy issues. Listen to this description of human 
life from one devotee: “a small but boisterous bit of 
the organic scum that for the time being coats part 
of the surface of one small planet.” That is cynicism 
when it is full grown. That is sitting in the seat of 
the scornful when it is finished. Do you like it? Do 
you think it is true? Human life merely a small but 
boisterous bit of organic scum that for the time being 
coats part of the surface of one small planet—think 
of living on that when a man could live on ‘Now are 
we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest 
what we shall be.” 

Dread cynicism as you would the Black Plague, and 
if you would be healthy and escape its infection keep 
closer company with Christ Jesus. If ever anybody in 
history had an excuse for being cynical it was He. His 
family thought Him crazy, His church thought Him a 
heretic and excommunicated Him, His country 
thought Him a traitor and crucified Him, His friends 
thought Him a failure and disowned Him. One of 


132 


THE CURSE OF CYNICISM 


those is enough. To have your family think you crazy 
—that is enough. To have your church excommuni- 
cate you as a heretic—that is enough. To have your 
country cry, Crucify, crucify! against you as a traitor 
—that is enough. To have your friends think you a 
failure and disown you—that 1s enough. But to have 
all four in the brief span of one short lifetime—Oh! 
too much! Yet, so mistreated, what has Jesus been 
doing for us all these centuries? Making us believe in 
man, making us believe in a kingdom of righteousness 
upon the earth, making us believe in a good God, burn- 
ing into the human heart the fairest faiths and hopes 
that the human heart ever dared to entertain until His 
very Cross has ceased being a badge of tragedy and has 
become the center of song. If you would keep whole- 
some in this cynical generation you would better keep 
close to that radiant and undiscourageable life! 


133 


Che One-Ching Wan 


By Freperick F. SHANNON, D.D., CENTRAL CHURCH, 
CHICAGO 


“He answered and said, Whether He be a sinner, I know not; one 
thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” 

—sT. JOHN IX—25 

AM inclined to set down this blind man as a logi- 

cian of the first order. Knowing nothing of the 
sinuous steps in the processes of formal logic, yet is 
he unanswerably argumentative, tenaciously aware of 
something he refuses to let go of. Born blind, groping 
through his darkened years until manhood’s estate, 
one day the Light of the World broke across his en- 
shadowed path and thenceforth he began to view the 
universe with other, larger eyes. 

At this juncture, enemies of the Master pounce 
upon him, endeavoring to beat his fact-logic out of 
him with cudgels of prejudice, malice, ignorance, and 
other weapons stored up in the black arsenals of ha- 
tred. But his opponents made a sorry job of it. Not 
only does he refuse to fall back before their furious 
onslaught; he is aggressive, positive, acute, wise with 
the old wisdom of reality at the heart of things. 

I think of him as “The One-Thing Man,”’ recall- 
ing the statement concerning a modern world-figure, 
of whom it is said that he had “a single-track mind.” 


134 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


Such a mind may be regarded, of course, in a dispar- 
aging spirit; or, on the other hand and viewed in the 
large, a single-track mind may be a magnificent crea- 
tion. It all depends upon the mind—why it is going, 
where it is going, the purpose of its going, and what 
it sees on all sides as it flashes along. No train, how- 
ever splendidly equipped, ever uses more than a single 
track at once—not without damage, perhaps even ir- 
reparable loss. Likewise, there is something germinal, 
creative, dynamic in the certitude of this one-thing 
man. An expert in major matters, he steadfastly re- 
fuses to be thrown off his center by minor details. 
Once and for all, his determination is voiced in my 
text; once and for all, also, here is the authority 
which can never be repealed or superseded—the au- 
thority of Christian experience: “One thing I know, 
that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” 

Let us think, first, of the wnzfying power of this one- 
thing man, or, if you please, of Christian experience. 
“Whether he be a sinner I know not: one thing I 
know.” Stripped of sham and bared to the bone, here 
is one of the supreme debates in the whole history of 
mind. A man with his once dead eyes becomes a mer- 
ciless as well as a merciful logician. He is merciful 
because he loves the truth; he is merciless because he 
hates sham; but whether merciful or merciless, he is 
sure of one thing: That his physical blindness has 
given place to physical sight. There may be one— 
two—a score—a thousand—a million things he does 
not know, may never know; but one thing—well, here 


135 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


is a flash of consciousness that is deep, steady, intel- 
ligent, aware of its own center, holding its friction- 
less poise while the universe keeps on its many-minded 
way. 

Thus fortified behind his impregnable walls of 
unity, he drops a spiritual and mental explosive into 
the camp of his enemies—a bomb which is exasper- 
atingly disconcerting. How do we know? Because 
“then they stormed at him.” Unable to answer his 
argument, to explain his fact, to budge him from 
his center, “they stormed at him’; they blew up a 
strong wind of words; they set in motion a psycho- 
logic cyclone of cynicism; they released a Euroclydon 
of agnosticism uproarious with tornadoes of dogma- 
tism. Yet there he stands upon the rock of his one 
thing, calmly serene amid the surging seas of hate 
and misunderstanding that lash his “inaccessible 
home.” Why, it is simply great—too great for words. 

Now, in the light of this nameless man’s physical 
and intellectual experience, is there not a clue to the 
way in which the modern Christian may get his own 
mental and spiritual bearings? I believe there is. 
Take it on the physical side of things. From the time 
man began to think, we see him on the scent, like a 
mental hound, of the idea of physical unity and order. 
As I write these words, I happen to be looking from 
the window of a Pullman car at a pile of buildings 
in which a great university 1s housed. Quite impossi- 
ble: to trace, absolutely, the) “ans*)/and ‘outs)" othe 
“ups” and “downs,” the backward and forward move- 


136 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


ments of the human mind in its quest of physical 
unity from a far-off antiquity up to the time it housed 
its instruments in these university buildings, yet the 
search is there, written into the very history of mind 
itself. As a climax to that long quest for unity and 
orderliness in the cosmos, here is the latest confession 
of one of the greatest of living astronomers: “To an 
astronomer the most remarkable and interesting thing 
about that part of the physical universe with which he 
has become acquainted is not its vast extent in space, 
nor the number and great masses of its stars, nor the 
violent forces that operate in the stars, nor the long 
periods of astronomical time, but that which holds him. 
awestruck is the perfect orderliness of the universe and 
the majestic succession of the celestial phenomena. 
From the tiny satellites in the solar system to the 
globular clusters, the galaxy and exterior galaxies there 
is no chaos, there is nothing haphazard and there is 
nothing capricious. The orderliness of the universe is 
the supreme discovery in science; it is that which gives 
us hope that we shall be able to understand not only 
the exterior world but also our own bodies and our own 
minds.” | 
The fact is, the history of mind in its long romantic 
and tragic quest is an Iliad, an epic, a heroism, a hymn 
—a song not only of “degrees,” but a song of unity 
and orderliness; thus have we come to think of the 
unity of Matter, the unity of Man, and, back of all, 
the unity of God. The mysterious doors of the uni- 
verse swing both ways—inward and outward. They 


137 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


swing outward from Spirit to Ether, from Ether to 
Light, from Light to Matter; they swing inward from 
Matter to Light, from Light to Ether, from Ether 
to Spirit. But in whatever direction they swing, God 
is behind and within, on either side, on all sides of 
them. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God 1s one.” 
Here, moreover, is a unifying power of soul which 
offers an apologetic that is final. Now, there is a 
finality that is dead, static, immobile; there is also 
a finality that is alive, dynamic, continuously moving 
into something rich and strange as well as something 
that affirms its own everlastingness while it journeys 
along with and within the soul. Whatever we may 
term it, it is the result of a change in one’s personal 
center—a shifting of the soul-gear from law to inter- 
mediate, and, finally, to high—the highest of all. Call 
it repentance or conversion or new birth or any other 
name that fits the fact; yet, as Carlyle suggests, it is 
the vast inscrutable wonder of these twenty centuries. 
For myself, I have come to regard the evidential 
value of atheism, in its various forms, as a positive 
argument for the fact of God in Christ. Sometimes 
men fairly rage with downright infidelity; sometimes 
they merely swell up with haughty agnosticism; some- 
times they just gape with dumb uncertainty. Still, 
no matter how they came by this attitude, do they 
not present the spectacle of being abnormal in a nor- 
mal universe? An Australian physician has written 
a volume on “The Great Abnormals.”’ Some of his 
subjects are insane, some are partially unbalanced, 


138 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


some are moral perverts. It is not time for a compe- 
tent thinker to give us a volume on “The Greatest Ab- 
normals?’ And by the greatest abnormals I mean 
the intellectually sane who are nevertheless spirit- 
ually stupid or insane. Undoubtedly among these are 
some of the living psychologists of the behavioristic 
school; or, going farther back, Haeckel, who held 
that man is “an affair of chance; the froth and fume 
at the wave-top of a sterile ocean of matter.’’ Now, 
surely, any one who holds such a philosophy of man 
and at the same time is seemingly sane, has earned for 
himself a conspicuous place among “The Greatest 
Abnormals.” 

A certain lawyer of this school says that life is a 
drab affair; that man, not knowing where he comes 
from or where he goes to, is the victim of blind forces, 
and, therefore, morally unaccountable for his charac- 
ter and conduct. Two things should be said in answer 
to this kind of thinking. In the first place, this par- 
ticular man, according to his friends, is much better 
than his philosophy. They assert his kindliness, his 
humaneness, his championship of the social under-dog. 
Now, if this is true, where did he get his humanitarian 
instincts? Are they and he “just an affair of chance” 
a bit of scum floating on the surface of the waters 
of being, or are they effects produced by certain causes 
Tising out of a First Cause? Ordinarily, thinkers rea- 
son from cause to effect,—except, extraordinarily! 
when they set down false premises and reach false 
conclusions in matters of religion. The mental twist 


139 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


of the érreligiously insane would be amusing if it were 
not saddening. 

The second thing to be said is this: The human 
soul is in duty bound to protect itself against any 
such attitude. “Life is a pretty drab affair,” says 
our Christless humanitarian. Well, why not, if there 
is no God, no Soul, no One Thing that can be known 
in the midst of many things that cannot be known? 
If some people gave a tenth as much of their time in an 
honest endeavor to find out the fact of God in Christ 
as they do in trying either to disprove or obscure that 
fact, I would be willing to bet my soul that they, too, 
would be able to find the white-hot certainty that 
continues to burn the cold chill off the edge of many 
uncertainties. “By their fruits ye shall know them” 
may be spoken not only of those who live with Christ 
in God, but quite as emphatically, also, of those who 
have an intellectually good logic engine pulling a long 
train of spiritually empty cars. At this point I was 
not sure of my figure. Turning to the conductor, I 
asked: ‘‘Captain, what do you call a train of empty 
cars?’ “‘Why,”’ he flashed back, “we call ’em dead- 
head equipment.” ‘That is it, precisely! An average 
logic engine drawing a spiritually “dead-head equip- 
ment’’ of godlessly empty cars—coming from nowhere, 
stopping nowhere, going nowhere. “By their fruits 
ye shall know them’’—unbelievers and agnostics and 
infidels as well as prophets and saints and martyrs. 
Allowing a million minor things to run over and away 
with them, they are tragically unaware of the “one 


140 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


thing” of stupendous meaning—the glowing inner 
unity which gives wealth and harmony to both the 
apparent and real disunities of life. 


II 


Moreover, this one-thing man, as a type of Chris- 
tian experience at its best, asks us to consider a second 
proposition. It is the reassuring power of the faith 
of God in Christ. No one questions the worth of as- 


surance in common, everyday affairs; yet nowhere is 


certainty more fundamental than in religion. “One 


of the dominant notes of modern life,” says a thinker, 


“is not so much unbelief as uncertainty.” Accepting © 


the statement for its discriminating value, there is no 
blinking the fact that overmuch uncertainty ends in 
surrender to forthright unbelief. 

Now one of the unquestioned values of the assur- 
ance created by personal contact with God in Christ 
is this: It victoriously outwits all theories as such, 
whether grounded in theology, philosophy, or science. 
I hardly need to pause to say that all helpful theories 
have their place; what I do affirm is that all of them 
are incapable of formulating or expressing a// there is 
for the soul hid with Christ in God. 

Reverting to this old story, see how the blind man 
turned upon his tormentors and grilled them unmer- 
cifully. Disciples of Moses, yet they did not know 
whence the Christ is. “Why herein is the marvel,” 
he answered back, “that ye know not whence He is, 
and yet He opened mine eyes.’ Consider, too, his 


141 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


appeal to history: experience puts into his grasp a 
rapier of logic which cuts through fancy to the heart 
of fact—whatever fact may be, wherever fact may 
lead. “Since the world began’’—his words come with 
measured majesty—“‘it was never heard that any one 
opened the eyes of one born blind.” In short, there 
may or may not have been remarkable cures in -the 
past; but never before—not since the world began— 
did one born with dead eyes have them opened. Not 
theologically clever, nor philosophically acute, nor 
psychologically verbose, nor scientifically instructed, 
yet he knows that something unique in the history of 
the race has happened to him. The fact is what he 
wants; he himself is the fact; let other explain the fact 
as they may choose. Weigh, furthermore, his conclu- 
sion—a thunderbolt from the heavens of inductive 
philosophy sixteen centuries before Francis Bacon was 
born: “If this man were not from God, He could do 
nothing.” 

Here, then, is the fore-runner of the type of assur- 
ance which makes the disciples of Christ equal to the 
emergencies arising in each and all generations. I 
have seen a few specimens in my own lifetime. The 
first was Dwight L. Moody. Asa country boy, I came 
to the World’s Fair held here in Chicago. Vivid, in- 
deed, is the memory of how that great new world of 
industry, commerce, art, and science burst upon my 
wondering eyes. I was filling the role of a printer’s 
devil in those far-off days. I little dreamed then as 
my employer, Milton F. Conley, later announced when 


142 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


I preached my first sermon in Louisa, Ky., that I was 
to be promoted from “devil to divine.’ Fascinated as 
I was by anything pertaining to printing, I remember 
how I used to stand before that giant press exhibited 
by The Chicago Daily News and dream of the day 
when I might possibly be the foreman of all the press-. 
men who ran it. But one of the other ineffaceable 
memories of that period is hearing Moody preach in a 
downtown theatre at noon. I don’t remember what he 
said; but I do remember Moody. It is the memory of 
a man who had experienced something too great to 
be told; of one who knew spiritually where he was and 
where he was going; of one who overflowed with joy- 
-ousness attuned to great good common sense. Now, » 
there were a lot of things Moody did not know and 
made no pretense of knowing. Like Robert Louis 
Stevenson, for example—and others—he never really 
learned how to spell. Mr. Fleming H. Revell, his 
brother-in-law, once told me this story: Sitting in the 
writing room of a Philadelphia hotel, Moody asked, 
“Flem, how do you spell Philadelphia—F77 or Fel?” 
Yet Henry Drummond, a man with many-sided hu- 
man contacts as wide as the world, declared Moody 
was the greatest human he had ever met. And the 
greatness of Moody consisted in the fact that he had 
met Christ in life’s way, that he knew he had met Him, 
and was assured that he would continue to meet Him 
forever. | 

Some years ago it was my privilege to be one of 
the speakers at the annual banquet of the Civil War 


143 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


veterans in Brooklyn. The other speaker was General 
OQ. O. Howard. Along with many others who were 
privileged to know him, I shall never forget that noble- 
man of God. He carried an armless sleeve about with 
him, having lost his right arm at the battle of Fair 
Oaks on June 1, 1862. He also carried a strong, gentle, 
beautiful face as he went to and fro in the earth—a 
face whose inner smile refused to come off. Where 
did he get that smile? Some of it came through his 
ancestors, some through cultivation, but the most of 
it came, according to his own confession, from the 
deathless light Christ struck into his soul while he 
was kneeling one night before a table, with his Bible 
on it, in the old barracks room at Tampa. Next morn- 
ing a fellow-officer said to him, “Howard, I hear that 
you have become a Christian.” “Yes,” answered How- 
ard, “I have, and I’m not ashamed of it.”” “Why,” the 
other continued, “I can show you a hundred incon- 
sistencies in the Bible.” ‘‘Perhaps you can,” rejoined 
Howard, “‘but you can’t show me that last night I did 
not surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, and I’ve been 
so happy I couldn’t sleep. I can wait God’s time for 
an explanation of the inconsistencies.” For years 
Howard was a teacher of mathematics at West Point; 
but in that old barracks room at Tampa he himself 
was taught something which kept him through the 
years and beyond—even as he journeyed the way of 
the unreturning. Do we not need more of this quality 
of faith today? It is the assurance born of experience 
when God has His own conscious beginnings in His 


144 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


way with man, moving definitely out of the realm of 
theory into the soul He has made for His true dwell- 
ing-place. 

I officiated at the funeral of the widow of Jerry 
McAuley. I knew her and her second husband, the 
late Bradford Lee Gilbert, father of the modern sky- 
scraper, very well. They were two of the godliest 
folk it has been my fortune to know; and “godli- 
ness,” said John G. Wooley, “is the splendor of char- 
acter which gives the shine of omnipotence to action.” 
These people had both the shine and the action—a 
kind of omnipotence with which God alone weapons 
men and women who act as if He were, and are then 
assured by processes at once too subtle and large to 
be caught within the molds of formal logic, that He is 
that final and supreme fact which the soul was de- 
signed to know. 

Standing by the side of her casket in a downtown 
mission hall in New York, did I even intimate that 
that God-intoxicated woman—an unusual individual 
as well as a unique social force—was uncertain as to 
the redemptive power which had lifted her, her hus- 
band, and thousands to whom they ministered, out of 
the black abysses of sin and degradation up to solid 
spiritual roadways leading on and ever on to the 
sweetly inviting homes of unfathomable reality? No; 
I said that this greatly transformed human knew, like 
Paul, Whom—not just what—she believed; that there 
were a multitude of things she did not and could not 
know while in the flesh; but one thing she was hilari- 


145 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ously and songfully convinced of: that she had been 
marvelously found of God in Christ, and, through that 
finding, had been privileged to drink from the River 
of Life—even the River whose waters fertilize the 
roots of the universe. 


III 


There is still another fact which this one-thing man 
challenges us to consider, and that is the clarifying 
power of Christian experience. “I was blind, now I 
see.” He is referring, of course, to the purely physical 
change wrought upon his dead eyes by the Infinite 
Optician. But in saying purely physical change I do 
not wish, even suggestively, to minify the majesty, 
mystery, and miraculousness of the Master’s cure. 
There are those—excellent people, too—who are not 
kindly disposed to the “works,” “‘signs,” “‘miracles” 
of our Lord. Very well; every mind for itself, and a 
wondrous Heaven, let us hope, for all. But believing, 
as I do, that the Lord Christ Himself is the most tran- 
scendent, awe-inspiring fact yet disclosed to our part 
of the universe, everything else is comparatively sim- 
ple. I would measure my words here; for I am no 
longer on a swift-moving, limited train, but in the 
midst of one of the loveliest of all of God’s Acres. I 
am prone upon the grass, level with these graves 
around me; I am brooded over by a turquoise sky, per- 
fumed by flowers, sung to by birds of gorgeous plum- 
age—yea, and surrounded on every hand by the tombs 
of my ancestors. Moreover, I am soul-deep in June— 


146 


93> ¢¢ 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


indeed, this is June’s last lingering day for 1927. 
Thus, you see, I am in one of those immortally jocund 
moods and blessed situations which dispose one to tell 
the little bit of truth it has been his privilege to 
glimpse while touring through this part of the vast 
cosmos. 

We talk of the wonderful works of God, and we do 
well. These insect-filled yards of space about me are 
teeming with mystery. The ant which is scaling this 
blade of grass at my feet represents, Darwin thought, 
the largest brain-power in small compass ever unfolded 
to his perceiving mind. Well, this ant, for aught I 
know, may regard himself as he climbs his blade of 
grass, an ant pioneer out in space—a kind of twen- 
tieth-century steeplejack walking up the outside of a 
forty-story building; or, perchance, if he be an unusu- 
ally daring citizen of the ant kingdom, he may regard 
himself as a Lindbergh, a Chamberlain, or a Byrd of 
the air. However, this is what I want to say: I think 
all other works and facts of our human world, in 
comparison with Christ, as of antlike proportions— 
somewhat like a blade of grass alongside the Wool- 
worth Tower, or like the ant himself as compared with 
our human birdmen. Get God in Christ, and there is) 
nothing more to get, though you may be all your im- 
mortality getting it, so inexhaustibly much és there to | 
be gotten. Walking on the water, multiplying the 
loaves and fishes, straightening out withered hands and’ 
limbs, opening blind eyes, raising the dead, turning 
water into wine, forgiving sins—these belong to the 


147 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


great imponderables of the moral universe; but they 
are, after all, as secondary to Christ as the universe is 
secondary to God. The stars in their courses belong 
to a lower order of grandeur than the Christ Who is 
continuously active in and through the spiritual forces 
of which He is the unique and ageless Master. 

Now, we must certainly reckon the clarifying power 
of Christian experience as one of the transcendent facts 
of history. Go where you will, this sky-born music 
will break in upon you in some form or other; not 
only the New Testament, but human life itself wit- 
nesses to the truth that God has never left Himself 
unrevealed anywhere or any time. Yet facts compel 
us to say that God in Christ prosecutes a process of 
regeneration whereby, in the words of Professor Wil- 
liam James, “a self hitherto divided and consciously 
wrong, inferior, and unhappy, becomes unified, and 
consciously right, superior, and happy, in consequence 
of a firmer hold upon religious realities.” Does not 
the great psychologist lay bare the heart of the mat- 
ter? Only, it is not merely through our own “firmer 
hold upon religious realities,” but through the firmer 
hold which religious realities get upon us, that spiritual 
blindness gradually recedes before the dawning light 
of God in Christ. 

Consider, therefore, this clarifying power of the one- 
thing man in the sphere of religious insight, of spir- 
itual understanding. One might assess many varieties 
of knowledge and types of human beings for illustra- 
tion. But as there are two books here in the grass 


148 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


beside me, I will choose from them. ‘Have you never 
marked the eyes of a man,” says one, “‘who has seen 
the world he has lived in: the eyes of the sea-captain, 
who has watched his life through the changes of the 
heavens; the eyes of the huntsman, nature’s gossip 
and familiar; the eyes of the man of affairs, accus- 
tomed to command in moments of exigency? You 
are at once aware that they are eyes which can see.” 
These words are from Woodrow Wilson’s essay, “On 
Being Human,” first published in The Atlantic 
Monthly thirty years ago. Pope Benedict says that 
Wilson’s mind was the only first-class mind the World 
War produced. Agreeing with His Holiness that the 
Great War President had a first-class mind, I do not 
agree with him that the war produced it. The mind 
was there already, trained, prepared, waiting for the 
cataclysm which merely declared the intellectual and 
spiritual readiness which had been in process for more 
than fifty years. “You are at once aware that they are 
eyes which can see.’ Don’t forget that sentence; we 
shall come back to it directly. 

_ The second book here in the grass beside me is The. 
Christlike God, by Bishop Francis J. McConnell. If 
he, like Wilson, were dead, it would be entirely be- 
coming to speak of him as one of the most wholesome, 
as well as the subtlest, fairest minds of our genera- 
tion. Having read in the field of Christian apologetics 
for a good many years, I regard The Christlike God 
as in a class by itself. Ponder these sentences: “If we 
are to have a God at all, we may just as well have one 


149 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


worth having.” —‘‘My body itself may be the seat of 
microscopic universes.’”’—“Of course the Divine must 
know Himself through and through.”—“If so much 
mind is required to read off the processes of the uni- 
verse, it does not seem far-fetched to assume that the 
universe is the expression of mind.” ‘This sentence, I 
think, is the best putting of the philosophy of theism 
ever made.—“The revelation of the relevation in 
Christ may continue indefinitely.” 

I have quoted from two of the most competent of 
modern minds—full-bred human beings, to paraphrase 
Woodrow Wilson’s words, who love a run afield with 
their understanding. Why are we at once aware that 
these men have eyes which can see? Contrast them, 
for example, Wilson with Clemenceau, and McConnell 
with Santayana. No fair-minded person would ques- 
tion the intellectual abundance of the French states- 
man or the Spanish philosopher. Yet is there not a 
marked difference in the undertones of the unbelievers 
as compared with the overtones of the avowed disciples 
of Christ? It is not too much to say that we are 
immediately in a changed intellectual and spiritual cli- 
mate the moment we cross the human frontiers repre- 
sented by these four men. What makes the difference? 
Certainly, nothing less than the clarifying power of 
God in Christ. “Whereas I was blind, now I see.” 
This is the good confession of men and women of 
high degree and low. The Christlike God does turn a 
steady, supersolar blaze, at once golden and illumi- 
nating, into the depths of human consciousness. Then 


150 


THE ONE-THING MAN 


does the one-thing man become big enough for any- 
thing—anywhere—up and down the path of Duty 
within the worlds. And all because, as in the experi- 
ence and words of Robert Browning: 

“That One Face, far from vanish, rather grows, 


Or decomposes but to recompose, 
Become my universe that feels and knows.” 


1st 


Creatibe Freedom 


By Lynn Harotp Hovucu, D.D., ceNTRAL METHODIST 
EPISCOPAL CHURCH, DETROIT 


“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under 
law, but under grace.” 
—ROMANS VI-14 


OUR hundred years ago Luther wrote his famous 
treatise, ““The Freedom of the Christian Man.” 
With unhesitating paradox he set forth the Lordly 
liberty and the loving servitude of the Christian man. 
Over fifteen hundred years before Luther, Paul had 
passed through the most desperate personal struggle 
in respect to the same matters and had set forth in 
intense and burning words the charter of the emanci- 
pation of the Christian who for all his freedom 
remained the most willing slave of Jesus Christ. To- 
day we find the problem pressing hard for a con- 
temporary solution. Many restless eyes all about us 
tell the tale of an emancipation which has not set free, 
and of a liberty which has left the taste of dust and 
death upon the lips. The old, old questions lift their 
heads again. And even in these bustling amazingly 
active days we cannot ignore them and we cannot con- 
tent ourselves with superficial answers. 


ie 


CREATIVE FREEDOM 


I 


A good deal of the human story has been a long 
and dreary march of slaves. The valleys of the 
Euphrates, the Nile and the Tiber have had each 
their own tale of heavy and cruel servitude. To un- 
told millions of people life has consisted of doing 
the will of some other person whose power could not 
be resisted. Even where there has been no political 
slavery often the economic conditions of life have 
made men slaves. The freedom to starve has never 
been .a very highly prized possession, and where eco- 
nomic pressure has created hard and bitter conditions, 
usually most men however unwillingly have made 
some sort of terms for the sake of keeping life going. 
Society itself is a kind of stern master. When we 
accept its sanctions we do not in the least mind their 
strength. But when we give lip and hand service 
while our hearts are hot and resentful we experience 
a contradiction in our own lives which is a very tragic 
and disintegrating experience. And our unhappiness 
is none the less acute if the standards are high and 
gracious sanctions coming out of the noblest experi- 
ences of the race, sanctions which we ought to love, 
but in whose presence we actually find ourselves rest-_ 
less and unhappy. Whenever a man gives outward | 
conformity to standards which for either good or bad | 
reasons he hates in his heart that man is a slave. 

The ugliness of slavery is sure at last to lie in the 
fact that as it does its will with a human life its 


153 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


victim ceases to be a person and becomes a thing. He 
ceases to be in a fine sense an end, and becomes in a 
hard and ugly sense a means. Slavery is the con- 
tradiction of the very meaning and glory of the per- 
sonal life. It disintegrates the fibers of personality 
itself. It finds a man and when its work is done it 
leaves a machine. 

The situation is very much complicated by the fact 
that it has always been true, and never so true as 
now, that the efficiency of many a practical enterprise 
is for the time at least increased if the service of a 
large number of responsive automata can be secured. 
To press the button and to secure immediate prac- 
tical results is the requirement of mechanical efficiency. 
For the moment at least human machines seem much 
more satisfactory than growing persons. ‘There are 
times when personality seems an impertinence. Bridge 
building, the construction of railroads and all the end- 
less repetition of the automatic workers may easily 

suggest the negation of personality. And a short- 
sighted technique of what calls itself scientific organi- 
zation may actually work out in such a fashion that 
..life is sinking to lower levels all the while. The ma- 
chine is paid for, if one may use such a figure, by the 
very lifeblood of personality itself. 

To be sure in the long run personality has its sure 
revenge. It is only a temporary efficiency which is 
secured by the depletion of the vital forces of man- 
hood. It is happy workers doing work so organized 
that personality comes to its own who form the basis 


154 


CREATIVE FREEDOM 


of ever increasing industrial efficiency. You cannot 
dwarf human life and increase production indefinitely. 
The automatic worker must have a human life away 
from his round of routine for the sake of the machine 
he is helping to make, as well as for his own sake, 
and for the sake of the human life of the world. 

The desire for quick returns however is quite likely 
to lead men to ignore such facts as these. Just as we 
waste a ton of coal for every ton we take out of the 
ground, just as we carelessly harvest our supply of 
timber, so we are likely to use up our human mate- 
rial with little thought of the future. We think all 
too little of the necessity of forestation. And we 
think, one is tempted to say, scarcely at all of its 
equivalent in human life. So we turn persons into 
things with little thought of the meaning of the 
process. 


II 


Something deep in the nature of man revolts from 
the whole process which makes him a slave. If he 
has been cringing with lip service in the presence 
of standards in the life of the community which do 
not actually command his loyalty, he comes at last 
to hate these sanctions with a bitter hatred. If the 
daily round of his life leaves no place for the expres- 
sion and the growth of his personal life he comes at 
last to have an attitude of angry rebellion. 

It is quite likely that this revolt so easily under- 
stood and analyzed will work no end of havoc when it 


155 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


has gathered momentum and has come to the full- 
ness of its power. For revolt breeds the love of de- 
struction for its own sake, and a good many fair and 
precious things are likely to be caught in the de- 
structive fury of the storm. 

At the moment we are observing great numbers of 
lusty and energetic people who are very angry at the 
historic standards of good living in personal and social 
relations. They quite hate the sense of inferiority 
which is ready to descend upon them if they admit 
the validity of these standards without changing a 
good many aspects of their lives. They feel that the 
society which firmly upholds such standards is all the 
while making slaves of men. They are determined 
to have self-expression even if that means what wise 
men in the past have called lawless indulgence. They 
are apostles of revolt who would put down the stand- 
ard of control and would lift up the standard of 
license. 

Of course it is an old dilemma. And if we are not 
too self-conscious to learn from human experience, 
history has a good deal to teach us. There was the 
same revolt in the Italian Renaissance. It began by 
eating the forbidden fruit of alluring vices. It ended 
with poisoning people whose presence in the world 
was an inconvenience, and in all sorts of other hard- 
ened sordid cruelties. Indeed the escape from the 
Ten Commandments through violating them has never 
kept its promise of giving a new freedom. The ex- 
perience is like the attempt to escape from the law 


156 


CREATIVE FREEDOM 


of gravitation by defying it. The result is likely to 
be at least a bad fall. The philosophy of license is 
really a network of clever lies. The apostles of license 
are all the while promising that which they can never 
give. You cannot become free physically by defying 
the laws of nature. And you cannot become free 
morally by defying the laws of ethics. Even our 
age with all its love of the experimental approach to 
reality may be reminded that this approach has been 
tried with approximate thoroughness in a good many 
generations and has always failed. Some self-con- 
scious youngsters talk as if nobody had ever broken 
the Seventh Commandment until their arrival on the 
human scene. 

The industrial and economic situation has also ele- 
ments of disturbing complexity. To be sure the case 
is much clearer here. For you do have a social or- 
ganization which often ignores fundamental human 
values. And all this must be met with frank and 
unhesitating criticism. And it must be changed. But 
even here it is all too easy for zestful reformers who 
are strong in their enthusiasms and not always so 
strong in their understanding of the elements of the 
problems to make serious mistakes. It is all too easy 
to throw out the baby with the bath. 

When a passionate apostle of revolt condemns all 
those industrial methods which sacrifice the very values 
which make men human we follow him heartily. But 
when he goes on to dream of a world where all will 
go well without discipline, and self-control, and sac- 


157 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


rifice and the doing of difficult work, grave hesitations 
emerge. Too often social revolution has failed through 
the excesses of the revolutionists. Too often a hatred 
of stability and order gets into the heart of a man who 
thinks that his hatred is only for industrial tyranny. 
The excesses of the peasants in the days of Luther 
put the clock back in Germany in a fashion from 
which that land has not recovered in four hundred 
years. The wages of license are reaction. And the 
greatest foe of progress in the industrial world is the 
man who mistakes license for freedom. This way 
madness lies both in dealing with the problems of 
the individual and in facing the needs of society. 


III 


The New Testament has a way of turning out to 
be curiously adequate when we go back to it after a 
really searching analysis of modern problems. No- 
where is this more clearly true than when we go back 
to the Gospels and the Epistles with the dilemmas we 
have just been considering. Whatever else may be 
asserted of Him, Jesus was the great free man of all 
the world. He was the first free man in whose heart 
law truly and completely lived. He was an incarna- 
tion of that law whose love is perfect freedom. — 

In a sense Jesus is the very living expression of a 
series of paradoxes. And there is no more perfect 
illustration of this statement than the fashion in which 
He found freedom without license, and stability with- 
out slavery. In His own life at least the Ten Com- 


158 


CREATIVE FREEDOM 


mandments were set to music. He transcended them 
by His perfect expression of every sanction for which 
they stood. Not by defying them but by loving them 
He secured a position of moral and spiritual mastery 
which included them and yet went beyond them. In 
Him love found more than the fulfilling of the law. 
It found the transfiguration of the law. The things 
which men are all the while separating He brought 
together in an astonishing harmony. From Him an 
apostle of revolt may learn the secret of having all 
the liberty he desires. But that liberty consists of 
freedom in law and not of freedom from law. In 
one age after another He has commanded the com- 
plete surrender and the entire loyalty of some of the 
most daring spirits whom the period has produced. 
They have felt at first dimly and later with under- 
standing that He possessed all that great and far- 
reaching freedom which they desired. And they have 
been astonished at last to find that this freedom was 
built upon a solid foundation of loyalty to the very 
sanctions which they had been inclined to repudiate. 
It is really a mark of an immature spirit to suppose 
that you must fall into ways of lawless indulgence in 
order to be free. Only minds which have not become 
capable of understanding discrimination confuse a 
warm hearth fire with a burning building. There ought 
after all to be no great difficulty in apprehending the 
difference between heat distributed through a great 
edifice on a winter’s day, and the destruction of the 
edifice in a red passion of flames. But we have sadly 


159 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


to admit that intense young spirits in every age have 
gotten into desperate confusion at this point. The first 
Great Freeman not only taught the distinction: He 
illustrated it. His life was always burning and never 
consumed. For the law itself became a noble passion 
in His life. 

It is significant enough that this matter of relating 
the deathless sanctions of life to a free and growing 
personality was centered in the struggle and victory 
of the personal life of the Apostle Paul, and was kept 
central in his teaching as a great evangelist. As a 
young man Paul almost sold his freedom. He almost 
surrendered to a hard, and mechanical, and rigid code. 
He found the experience terribly bitter and baffling 
and tragic. And the greatest experience of his life 
was the discovery that religion puts a new heart into 
the old loyalties, and makes the moral law not a slave 
master with a whip in his hand, but a great friend 
with a smile on his face. 

There are no more significant writings for our time 
than Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Romans. 
For these set forth that view of freedom with ethical 
insight at its heart, and of moral demand becoming 
joyous passion which is the most vital matter in Paul’s 
gospel. The freedom which does not emancipate finds 
diagnosis and prescription here which simply must not 
be passed by. If Mr. H. L. Mencken were told that 
the real failure of his mental life is to be found in 
his incapacity for the comprehension of Paul’s letters 
to the Galatians and the Romans he would doubtless 


160 


CREATIVE FREEDOM | 


feel a kind of amused and cynical surprise. But of 
course that is just the reason why the editor of the 
American Mercury can never be an American John 
“the Baptist. There is a good deal of contemporary 
writing which is an attempt to rehabilitate discredited 
vices. It seems fairly safe to say that Paul will have 
a great and penetrating word of summons and chal- 
lenge and rebuke to say to men and women in our 
time as long as the distinction between liberty and 
license is one which their minds do not compass, and 
one to which their hearts do not respond. 


IV 


Using the mechanistic view of life as a basis for 
thought it would be possible to argue that every- 
thing is completely determined beforehand. Such an 
analysis would be very impressive until one remem- 
bered that when two men are sitting at a table one 
somehow does manage to ask the other to pass him 
the salt. And in spite of the reign of law every im- 
portant act of our lives is based upon the unhesitating 
assumption that we might have done something else 
had we desired. We live in a world of natural law, 
yet we are not under the law. By the very process 
of obeying we find liberty. Men calculated strains 
and pressures and weights and built the Gothic cathe- 
dral which almost seems free from earth. Engineers 
work out the most detailed mathematical schemes in 
a similar fashion and build the great bridge whose 
mighty span is a thing of beauty and of endless serv- 


161 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ice. A daring lad in perfect obedience to physical 
laws completely transcends them and crosses the 
Atlantic in a day and a half. There is something 
creative about such freedom. It is completely eman- 
cipated. It has made friends with law. Its very 
emancipation lies in perfect obedience. 

The same principles apply in the realm of indi- 
vidual and social morality. You cannot build a great 
bridge of conduct without calculating all the weight 
and pressure and strain. The structure which is a 
defiance of moral law will go down in the flood. The 
structure which is an expression of the fundamental 
tightness of things will stand under the severest test. 
The Old Testament prophet who gladly put the law 
in his heart found far more freedom than ever comes 
to the apostle of license who surrenders to a lawless 
heart. 

Our problems of industrial organization must be 
met in just this spirit. We cannot solve the problem 
of the automatic worker by breaking the machines. 
We must organize leisure for the protection and up- 
building of personality. And by short hours of auto- 
matic work and zestful hours of such use of leisure 
that mind, body and soul are developed the whole 
level of our life can be lifted. We must organize 
the whole scheme of life for the development of per- 
sonality as well as for the material output of our fac- 
tories. And the very organization for such results will 
open the way for a creative freedom among all the 
workers of the Republic. 


162 


CREATIVE FREEDOM 


Law is an ugly thing if one approaches it in the 
attitude of hard revolt. It will break us if we defy it. 
But if we love it at the very moment when we have 
expressed our loyalty we will acquire a vast and 
transcendent freedom. The Great Freeman meant us 
all to be free. The brave apostle who assured the 
Romans that they were not under the law was in the 
same sentence requiring noble obedience. Creative 
freedom is found at the point where the law meets 
spontaneous love and love transfigures and fulfills the 
law. 


102 


Che Same esterday, Codap, and Forever 


By Burris A. JENKINS, D.D., LINWOOD BOULEVARD 
CHRISTIAN CHURCH, KANSAS CITY 


“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.” 
—HEBREWS XII—8 


O PREACH as if one had only one sermon to 

make gives one pause, and induces a rather sober- 
ing atmosphere. If a man had only one more address 
to make, a sort of farewell, his sense of proportion and 
perspective should be rendered acute. As Joseph Fort 
Newton has said, however, every preacher really has 
just one sermon. He varies it by dressing it up in 
different costumes and presenting it in differing con- 
ditions; yet it is the same old message, which might 
well be put into a single sermon. 

The text I have chosen is, I think, the second one 
that I used when starting in as a boy preacher. The 
first one was, of course, John 3:16: “For God so loved 
the world that he gave his only begotten son,” which 
has served as a first text for so many thousands of 
fledgling ministers. I suppose I used it first Just be- 
cause I thought I ought; but the one I used second, 
which is my present text, is the one which captured my 
boyhood imagination and has never lost its dominance. 
All through the years, now nearly forty of them, this 

164 


THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER 


text has furnished the key to my one sermon. I may 
have wandered from it, I may have bungled the pre- 
sentation of it, sometimes doubtless people have won- 
dered what earthly connection there could be between 
what I was saying and this guiding principle of all my 
thought and utterance; and yet I hope that down deep 
underneath, like the matted roots of alfalfa, every- 
thing I have said has been tied up with this master 
text. 

It is not to be wondered at that this age of ours 
should question whether Jesus fits our time and civili- 
zation. He was oriental, we are occidental. He was 
pastoral, we are industrial. He was thoroughly an 
idealist, so spiritual that he seemed to have little con- 
nection with the life bound up in material things; 
while we are intensely material, concerned with ma- 
chines and products and trading and creature comforts. 
He had no concern with laboratories and libraries, 
while our life is intimately connected with the re- 
searches and the findings of science. He is two thou- 
sand years away from our time and more than two 
thousand years away from our thought. He belongs to 
yesterday ; how can we say of Him, then, “Jesus Christ 
the same yesterday, today, and forever” ? 

More than that, our age is actually asking whether 
the picture we draw of Him is borne out by the facts, 
whether He is not an ideal that has slowly been 
evolved through two thousand years, an abstraction, 
an idea rather than a real being. Comparison fre- 
quently has been made to the Lenin cult which is now 


165 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


arising in Russia, a worship of a flesh and blood man 
who died only yesterday and who embodied in him- 
self the revolution by which Russia has sought free- 
dom. Some say that in a few centuries he will be a 
god, that he is almost one now. 

I will not pause to argue the historicity of Jesus, but 
will concede for the time being the utmost that can be 
said against it. Suppose He is an ideal, an abstraction, 
purely subjective in the minds and hearts of His fol- 
lowers, with but slender connection with a historical 
being, the ideal is none the less valuable, none the less 
powerful. ‘That abstraction, if you will, is more in- 
fluential in the world, however far we fall short of its 
realization, than any other ideal known to man. If 
your mind challenges that statement, then think a little 
while about Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath 
Tagore, who more than any other two men represent 
the millions of India and are perhaps nearer Christians 
than any two men equally prominent in all our Chris- 
tian world. ‘They are not church members, but they 
are Christians. It is not a question of how powerful 
is the church, nor even of how nearly does the Chris- 
tian world live up to Christ; but the real question is 
how deep down in the hearts of myriads of men and 
women east and west does the Christ ideal strike its 
root. Men attack the church, and no wonder; men as- 
sail avowed Christians, and it is not strange; but who 
assails Jesus, real or ideal, his teachings, his life and 
his death? Nobody worthy of notice, the wide world 
round. What he was yesterday that he is today, and 


166 


THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER 


he is increasing in power over the hearts of men, in 
prestige in the thoughts of men, and in influence in the 
lives of men. 

I am aware of the struggle going on down in the 
valleys, the shadows, and the mists where we live, un- 
derneath the tall, quiet, snowclad summit which is 
Christ. I know that the view of Him is obscured in 
the darkness of our little lives. We are absorbed in 
factories and half blinded by their dust and smoke; 
we are pushing over the roads of the world to carry 
our products and to trade them, our heads reeling in 
the heat and the dust clouds of the world’s highways; 
we eat and drink and dance and laugh and fight, while 
the clouds of our barrages and of our poison gas shut 
out the view of Him. Nevertheless, all the time within 
us we are conscious of that white summit, that White 
Comrade—real or ideal, it makes no difference—and 
we cannot be rid of Him if we would. He is the same 
today as He was yesterday for all who have ever heard 
of Him. He seizes upon the mind and the imagination 
and His hold can never be shaken loose. He wrestles 
with us like a God. 

I am quite well aware, too, of the proud scientific 
spirit of our time and our tendency to train all our 
thought in the lines of scientific investigation and 
achievement. It seems as if our wonders would never 
cease. Resolutely we have subdued the earth, the sea, 
the air, and now even the ether. We are busy improv- 
ing all our discoveries, prolonging life, lessening pain, 
promoting comfort, ease and rapidity in all our doings. 


167 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


We are delighted with ourselves and the wonders we 
can perform; but so irruptive is the human spirit that 
it bursts up through all these material occupations and 
diversions, like the spirit of a child tired with its com- 
plex and rapid play, to reach up after an ideal that 
towers above our toys and our gyrations. We are even 
declaring now that our science is to invade the realm 
of the spirit with increasingly wonderful conquests, as 
it has been doing of late already, and that within the 
dark chambers of the soul we shall witness the miracles 
of science in the days that are just at hand. All the 
time, however, hearts are hungry, minds are restless 
and dissatisfied. Stimulate the glands of internal secre- 
tion as you will, the more complex life becomes the 
more we are bewildered, and hearts break just as they 
have always done. We need a power not ourselves 
that makes for sympathy, encouragement, righteous- 
ness, and smooths the intricate paths of life for our 
feet. No matter how sophisticated we become, the 
peasant Christ has a word and a heart-beat for every 
step of the way. 

I can understand and appreciate that attitude of 
mind, the offspring of the scientific age, which looks 
upon life as stern and cruel in its origin, bleak and har- 
rowing in its progress, and dreadful in its close. It 
seems at times as if cruelty were king in all nature and 
in the lives of men. Pain is the price of so many steps 
along the way, and bloody are the footprints that we 
leave behind in sand or snow. It is not to be wondered 
at that some of us, in our perplexity and inability to 


168 


THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER 


solve the riddles of an apparently cruel world, hide our 
heads like ostriches in the sand, refuse to believe in 
pain and evil and, with a sort of blind optimism, deny 
the existence of these things and try vainly to lift our- 
selves by our bootstraps above the shadows where these 
evils lie. Nor, on the other hand, is it strange that a 
sort of stoic pessimism should in more stalwart minds 
be the outgrowth of the cruelties of life. Stoicism and 
pessimism are not dead, but are very much alive in the 
civilization of our western world. The best expression 
of it in verse, the bravest and the frankest, is that of 
William Ernest Henley, the Shropshire poet, in his 
“Invictus,” which concludes: 
“It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll, 


I am the master of my fate, 
I am the captain of my soul.” 


Mr. Jack Barker, who was with me in British camps 
in 1917, singing to soldiers wounded, convalescent, or 
just about to go up into the lines, always sang that 
song and always changed the last two lines to run: 


“Christ is the master of my fate, 
Christ is the captain of my soul.” 


And I think that to men facing almost certain death 
or wounds, that change was justified. It lifted the 
poem out of a pagan philosophy, out of a defiant pes- 
simism, into an atmosphere of Christian faith and cour- 
‘age. And I’ve seen it work in the faces of the men and 
have felt it thrilling in their handclasps. Cruel as was 


169 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


their destiny, they were willing to bet their lives that 
there isa God. They believed in the White Comrade; 
some of them even told me that they saw Him. It is 
nothing to me that He was only a mirage, if He was; 
it is everything to me that He was an idea and ideal, 
the most real thing in this world, comforting and sus- 
taining those men at Mons, at Paechendaele, on the 
Somme, at Verdun. It makes little difference whether 
He is an abstraction to men and women at this very 
hour, facing operations in hospitals, burning with fever 
in their beds, or standing by open graves where their 
little loved ones are being lowered into the dark. Idea 
or ideal or real person, it is all the same. He is at work 
in the world giving grit and endurance and hope to 
millions whose lives would otherwise be dark indeed. 
He is the same yesterday and today, and He will be 
forever. 

I venture the assertion that Jesus is fitting into this 
age just as well as He fitted into the simpler pastoral 
air of Galilee and Judea; that as He entered through 
tent-flaps or beneath thatched roofs of mud huts, so 
He enters into marble halls of office buildings and 
hotels, apartment houses and palaces. He is preached 
today by commercial men, in the assembling places of 
trade, who perhaps never know, or at least seldom stop 
to reflect, that they are preaching Him and His ideals. 
Our very “‘service clubs,’”’ the most spectacular mani- 
festation of business life, are named for one of His 
ideals, ministration. And suppose our intelligentsia 
are rather surfeited with the word “‘service,’”’ and sup- 


170 


THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER 


pose they do turn up their noses in a kind of cynic sar- 
casm at this slogan of self-abnegation. It is only a 
passing pose of smartness. In their own homes and 
friendships, and even business relations, they practice 
it. In the language of Rabbi Harry Mayer, “May 
the time never come when we shall lose this brightest 
jewel from the diadem of faith.” The ideal of Jesus, 
His statement that he who would be greatest among 
you must be servant of all, is entering into the very 
foundations of our commercial and industrial struc- 
tures, and will one day, please God, enter into our in- 
ternational ones. Blink it, jeer it, sneer at it, as in our 
worldly wisdom we may do, there it comes, growing, 
working, like the yeast in the lump of dough, like the 
mustard seed growing into a great tree. It even hangs 
over our leading institutions of learning, for painted 
over the Wellesley chapel platform, and engraved in 
the great stone gate of Harvard, are these words of 
the greatest teacher of them all: Non miéntstrari sed 
ministrare, not to be ministered unto but to minister. 

We are increasingly realizing, too, that even His 
economic principles are the best worldly wisdom. We 
forget how recent is our realization that honesty is the 
best policy; but Jesus goes as far beyond mere honesty 
as noontime is beyond the twilight of the dawn. He 
declares that the Golden Rule is the best policy in busi- 
ness as in all other human relations, and we are dimly 
beginning to understand how practical and hard-headed 
is His judgment. Nations are not yet ready for non- 
resistance, but of this much they are increasingly 


171 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


conscious, that resistance is the road to ruin. Some 
day they will go the whole distance with Jesus, as 
China long ago did, and learn not to fight, if they want 
to live as nations for ten thousand or twenty thousand 
years. That He was an expert in economics the world 
of business—led by men like Edward A. Filene, Arthur 
Nash, William Hapgood, and, dimly, Henry Ford—is 
beginning to understand. He is the same yesterday, 
today, and forever. 

His highest principle, that love is the best fulfilment 
of the self, we are also beginning gropingly to under- 
stand. His greatest follower harped upon that theme 
in music almost divine, and one of His latest followers 
has called love the greatest thing in the world. Few of 
us know it yet, and still fewer of us practice it; but His 
master key of love unlocks all doors in the labyrinth of 
life, straightens all paths, solves all puzzles. Love, 
deep and absorbing, for a person, for a cause, for a 
principle, for an ideal, is the solvent for all pain and 
anguish, weariness and heart hunger, disappointment 
and failure. One who loves anybody or anything with 
such passionate absorption can never despair of life, 
its meaning and its end. This is a high altitude, I 
know; it remains for humanity in the future to climb 
up where He is, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to- 
day, and forever. 

The old dilemma, presented by John the Baptist to 
Jesus, is still the same: “‘Art thou he that should come? 
Or look we for another?’ We come to Him today, 
consciously or unconsciously, with that same query. 


172 


THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER 


Either He is the answer to the yearning, heart-broken 
cry of our souls, or else we must look to somebody else. 
I look around and see no other. On all the horizons of 
history there looms no other figure that can answer 
the hungry cry of my soul. Not in the east, with all 
its genius for religion, do I see one; not in the north, 
with its sagas and its demigods; certainly not in the 
west nor in the south is there a head lifted above the 
skyline. My heart with all its vagaries, with all its 
decayed spots, with all its fears and qualms, with all its 
terrors of the dark, calls out for someone to come and 
to help. J am incurably religious—and I speak for 
all humanity—and if He is not the one, then there is 
no one, and hope is dead. He Zs the one, the only one, 
and He shall be the burden of my song until “this poor 
lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave’: 
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. 


173 


3s Jesus Gov? 


By James I. Vance, D.D., FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 
NASHVILLE 


“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and 
the word was God.” 


—— JOHN it =i% 

ITH this verse as a text, I want to discuss the 

question: Is Jesus God? There is today no 
livelier nor acuter question than this in all the realm 
of religious thought and controversy, and there is not 
today nor at any other time a fact more fundamental 
to Christian faith or more essential to the existence of 
Christianity as a supernatural and authoritative reli- 
gion than this of the Godhood of Jesus, Who in the 
prologue to John’s Gospel is called “the Word.” 


ATTACKS ON THE DEITY OF CHRIST 


The deity of Jesus is a live question today because of 
the attacks made upon it. These attacks move along 
three lines. 

The first moves in the direction of a bigger view of 
man. ‘There are those who affirm that man is divine. 
All men are divine. Any man is divine. You are 
divine. It may surprise you to know it. You do not 
feel very divine, especially in some nasty humor or 
vile mood. You do not regard yourself as very much 


174 


IS JESUS GOD? 


of a god, especially when the Philistines make kin- 
dling wood of your plans. Yet there is a measure of 
truth in the statement that man is divine. He was 
made in God’s image. He has divine potentialities 
and possibilities. By God’s grace, he becomes a par- 
taker of the divine nature. “We shall be satisfied 
when we awake in His likeness.” But if Jesus was 
divine merely in the sense that you and I are divine, 
He was not God at all. He was merely a superman, 
and there is an infinite difference between a superman 
and God. 

The second attack moves in the direction of a 
smaller view of Jesus. There are those who would ex- 
plain away all the big things recorded of Christ. They 
pose as scientists, and proceed on the theory that a fact 
sensed by a flesh perception ranks ahead of one sensed 
by a spiritual perception. So they deny miracles, and 
regard the supernatural as a superstition. It is true 
they have not yet gotten through explaining, but they 
point to the victrola, the telephone, the wireless, to air- 
ships and the radio, and say: “Give us time!” Their 
position is that if they can explain away the miracles it 
will reduce Christ from a God to the measures of a 
man, a theory about which there may be a difference of 
opinion. 

The third line of attack moves in the direction of an 
attenuated and diminished Deity. There are those 
who declare their belief in the deity of Christ and then 
proceed to tell us what they mean by deity. When 
they have finished, we discover that the thing they call 


175 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Godhood is so elusive and negative that it is not God- 
hood at all. One of this class says: “Yes, I believe 
that Jesus was God. God is just a word for good. The 
root meaning of good is the root meaning of God. 
Jesus was good. He was without sin. There was no 
element of evil in Him. His nature, therefore, being 
free from sin, was the God or the perfect good.” It 
does not seem to occur to these people that their theory 
would make Adam very much of a god until he fell out 
of Eden. If Jesus was God merely in the sense that 
He was not guilty of actual sin, His Godhood is 
fragile, and the church would be wise to carry accident 
insurance. 

These are the three lines along which attacks are 
being made today on the Godhood of Jesus—a bigger 
man, a smaller Christ, and a thinner deity. 


IF THESE ATTACKS SUCCEED 


Suppose these attacks on the deity of Christ succeed 
and we surrender our faith that Jesus was God, what 
follows? We have lost our Bible. If Christ was 
merely a good man, the Bible is merely a good book. 
It is on a level with other literature. It has no more 
authority than Shakespeare’s plays or Mr. H. G. 
Wells’ Romantic History of the World. The glory of 
the Bible is not its age nor its style nor its historical 
value nor its literary beauty nor its moral grandeur, 
but the fact that on its pages we meet the sublimest 
Figure in human history. “In the volume of the book 
it is written of me.” If Jesus shrivels from a God toa 


176 


IS JESUS GOD? 


mere man, you may as well send your Bible to a 
museum. 

If Christ loses His deity we lose our Saviour, for if 
Christ be not God, He cannot forgive sin. He may be 
a great Teacher, but He is not a Saviour. A gentle- 
man said to me one day: “I am going to join the Uni- 
tarian Church.” I said: “Then you will have no 
Saviour, for if Jesus is not God, He cannot save us 
from our sins.” ‘That is true,” he said, ‘but I do not 
feel the need of a Saviour.”” “How then do you regard 
Jesus?” J asked him. “I regard Him as the noblest 
and wisest and best of men.” “But this wisest and 
noblest and best of men says that you need a Saviour, 
and that He Himself is the only Saviour, that there is 
none other name under heaven given among men 
whereby we must be saved. If it be true that you do 
not need a Saviour, then He has deceived you and mis- 
led you and declared what is not true.” Therefore if 
Jesus be not God, He is not even a good man. 

If Christ’s Godhood goes, we also lose our salvation. 
There can be no salvation without a Saviour. What 
we call salvation is merely a spasm of hysterics, a 
hypnotic mood, a piece of pious somnambulism. We 
may think our sins have been forgiven, and our natures 
changed, but it is merely a phase of auto-suggestion. 
If any change has been wrought, we have brought it 
about ourselves. 

We also lose our heaven when Christ loses His God- 
hood. Whatever heaven is, it is the one bright spot on 
the far sky, our long home, where the weary journey 


177 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ends, where God wipes all tears from our eyes, where 
sorrow and trial and disappointment are forever be- 
hind us. But if Jesus was not God He did not rise 
from the dead. If Christ did not rise, neither do we. 
We rot in our graves forever. The dead are gone from 
us not to return. We have lost our loved ones. We 
may sing: “Lead, Kindly Light,’ and “Jerusalem, 
The Golden,” but there are no answering realities to 
these great hymns of hope. Heaven is merely a castle 
in the air and the golden city a mirage. There is noth- 
ing ahead but blank, sterile night. 

We also lose our heavenly Father, for Jesus is the 
only One Who has taken fear out of God’s face. The 
heathen and pagan cults think of God as a terror. 
Their gods frighten them, but there on the cross Christ 
lifted His hands pierced by the nails and tore away the 
veil fear had woven over the face of God, and as we 
look we cry: “Abba Father!” Jesus said: “He that 
hath seen me hath seen the Father,”’ but if He lied to 
us about Himself, He may have lied to us about the 
great Father, and there is no God left Who can com- 
fort a weary heart or call a prodigal home from the far 
country. 

These are some of the things involved in this ques- 
tion. When the fine phrase-makers of liberalism would 
spin their web of metaphysics and confuse us with spec- 
ulative mist, it is well to keep in mind what is in- 
volved. If Christ be not God, we lose our Bible, our 
Saviour, our salvation, our heaven, and our heavenly 
Father. This is not a faith lightly to be surrendered. 


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IS JESUS GOD? 


Is there any good reason why it should be surrendered ? 
I do not believe there is. Of course none cares to be- 
lieve a lie. If Jesus is not God, there is no virtue in 
believing that He is, for there is no virtue in believing 
a lie. Superstition is without merit. Credulity has no 
power to save. But if Jesus is truly God, he who sur- 
renders that faith for any reason, has swapped the uni- 
verse for a toy balloon. I am not hunting for that kind 
of a trade. 


THE) PROOF (OF) FIs: DET Y. 


Was, then, Jesus God? Let us at once clear the 
way by saying that miracles are not the proof, whether 
they be the miracles of His ministry or of His Person. 
It may be as we go on that some day we shall discover 
the secret of the miracles and understand how Jesus in 
a perfectly natural way healed the blind, cured the 
lame and cleansed the lepers; but if we do, the dis- 
covery will not take from Him His Godhood; for He 
never based His claims on the signs He performed. 
Christ worked miracles to bless humanity, not to make 
_a display of His power. As for the miracles of His 
Person, the virgin birth and the resurrection, it seems 
to me that Christ proves them far more than they Him. 

The abstract argument for the Godhood of Jesus is 
brief, and from the standpoint of logic, unanswerable. 
Jesus was either God or He was not. If He was not 
God, He was either deceived about Himself or He de- 
ceived others about Himself. Was He deceived about 
Himself? Was He suffering from an hallucination? 


179 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Was He mentally unbalanced? Was He crazy? 
There is not the slightest evidence that He was. 
On the contrary, He had perfect poise. He was 
calm and self-contained, always in possession of 
Himself, sound and sane in every position that He 
took and in every judgment He formed. ‘That alter- 
native, then, must be rejected. On the other hand, did 
He deceive others about Himself? Was He a fraud? 
Was He an impostor? Did He livea lie? There has 
never been a life of such absolute sincerity. He was 
truth incarnate, and His influence on mankind has been 
to create integrity of character, to make men trust- 
worthy and dependable, to establish confidence be- 
tween man and his fellows. That alternative must 
also be rejected. We are thrown back, then, on the 
first proposition, from which there is no escape, namely, 
that Jesus is God. 

This abstract argument, however, fails to satisfy us, 
for saving faith is not the result of a mental process 
but of a life experience. People discover that Jesus 
is God as they learn to know Him and try to live Him. 
This was His challenge, and His only challenge. “If 
any man will do my will, He shall know of the doc- 
trine, whether it be of God or whether I speak from 
myself.’ Let us turn, then, to some of the convic- 
tions that come as a result of a life experience. 

I believe that Jesus was God on the testimony of the 
Bible. At an annual luncheon of the alumni of Union 
Theological Seminary in New York City, at which I 
was present as a guest, one of the speakers made this 


180 


IS JESUS GOD? 


statement: “The Bible nowhere says that Jesus is 
God.” At the conclusion of the luncheon a venerable 
Presbyterian minister came forward to the speakers’ 
table and said to Dr. Lyman Abbott: “In your address 
you declared that the Bible nowhere states that Jesus 
is God.” “Yes,” replied Dr. Abbott, “and I stand by 
what I said.” ‘What will you do, then,” asked this 
minister, “with the prologue to John’s Gospel, which 
says, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was 
with God, and the word was God, and the word was 
made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His 
glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, 
full of grace and truth’?’ “O, that does not refer 
to Jesus,” said Dr. Abbott. ‘““To whom, then, does it 
refer?” he was asked. Then Dr. Abbott became a 
bit confused and said: “Have you read such-and-such 
a book?” When these gentlemen are asked questions 
they cannot answer, this is their method. They usually 
refer you to some book. 

Of course the Bible says that Jesus is God, not only 
in the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, but over and 
over again. If language can say a thing, John says 
that Jesus is God. There is also that wonderful pas- 
sage in Philippians, where Paul declares that “Jesus, 
though being on an equality with God, thought not 
Godhood a thing to be striven after, but emptied him- 
self, (or humbled himself).”? This means that Christ 
did not use His divine power for Himself, but for 
others. If to this extent He emptied Himself of God- 
hood, He must have possessed Godhood to begin with. 


181 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


One does not empty a vacuum. In the opening chap- 
ter of the epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus is declared to 
be “the brightness of the Father’s glory and the ex- 
press image of His Person.’”’ The entire Gospel of 
St. John was written to prove the Godhood of Jesus. 
This is the writer’s statement in the closing verse of 
the twentieth chapter, where he says: ‘“These are writ- 
ten that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the 
Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life 
through His name.” 

There is only one way to get rid of the testimony 
of John’s Gospel to the deity of Christ; that is to cut 
it out of the Bible. It is the method adopted by those 
who deny Christ’s Godhood, but it is a poor argument 
that starts out to prove a thing by a certain document 
and begins by rejecting that part of the document 
which is unfavorable. Here is a witness—the Bible. 
It is clear and credible. I will match that book against 
all the guesses of the scientists who deny Christ’s deity. 

I believe that Jesus is God because He lived like a 
God. If He were merely a man, why is it that other 
men do not live as He did? We have His teachings. 
Why is it we do not faithfully practice them? We 
have this ideal of a perfect life, but we fall far short 
of realizing the ideal. When I was preaching to the 
soldiers overseas, a Jewish rabbi came to the camp to 
speak to the Jewish soldiers. Among these Jewish lads 
was one who attended a number of times the Protestant 
services. He asked the rabbi to tell him the difference 
between the Messiah of the Jews and the Jesus of the 


182 


IS JESUS GOD? 


Christians. The rabbi said: “The difference is that we 
Jews believe that the Messiah is still to come, whereas 
Christians believe that He has already come in the 
Person of Jesus.”’ After a moment’s meditation the 
young soldier said: “But, rabbi, when our Messiah 
comes, what will He have on Jesus?’ Christ lived 
the perfect life, the kind of life God would be expected 
to live were He to become man. Who can suggest a 
single change that should be made in Christ’s life to 
conform to this perfect ideal? He realized the ideal; 
because He lived like a God, it is not hard to believe 
that He was God. 

I believe that Jesus is God because He died like a 
God. One day in the pioneer period of our country, a 
great statesman hitched his horse in front of a country 
church in the valley of Virginia and went inside. He 
was a stranger to the community. The congregation 
was composed largely of the farmers and their families 
from the neighborhood. In the pulpit was a blind 
preacher. As the statesman listened, he was spell- 
bound. The blind preacher was painting a picture of 
Calvary, of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. He de- 
scribed the arrest, Christ’s bearing before Pilate and 
the priests. He went on to speak of the actual scene 
on Calvary. He dwelt on the words that fell from 
Christ’s lips as He hung on the cross, on the sublime 
moment when Jesus said to His Father: “Into thy 
hands I commit my spirit!” At the climax of this elo- 
quent picture, the blind preacher in a voice that 
thrilled his audience exclaimed: “Socrates died like a 


183 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


philosopher, but Jesus Christ died like a God!” If 
there were nothing but that day on Calvary, it would 
be enough for me. There was something unearthly, 
heavenly, about Jesus. To Him, death was not de- 
feat, but achievement. He did not suffer death. He 
accomplished His decease, for He was God. 

I believe in the Godhood of Jesus because of His 
humanity. It was real. He possessed divine power, 
but He never used it for Himself. He could make 
bread out of stones, but He never changed a stone into 
a loaf to feed His own hunger. He was thirsty and 
tired as He sat by Jacob’s well, but He was so human 
that He said to a sinning woman who had come to 
draw water from the well: “Give me to drink.” 

Christ’s name for Himself was “Son of man.” This 
expression occurs more than sixty times in the New 
Testament. In every case with two or three exceptions 
it comes to us over the lips of Jesus Himself. He took 
this name not because He had any doubt of His deity, 
but probably because He would emphasize to us the 
fact of His humanity. It is a little man who is jealous 
for his titles and attributes. A big man can get along 
with a plain name. And so Christ took a plain name, 
the Son of man, because He was a real God. It was 
His humanity that is stressed in that significant pas- 
sage where Christ asked His apostles: “Who do men 
say that I, the Son of man, am?” Peter answered: 
“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” He 
seems to say: “Thou art so much the Son of man, so 
human, Thy humanity is so big, so capacious, so racial, 


184 


IS JESUS GOD? 


so all-inclusive, that Thou art more than Son of man, 
Thou art the Son of God.” 

It is difficult to know where the human ends and the 
divine begins. They probably blend. But the greater 
always includes the less. Here in Christ’s humanity 
there is such a glory about the less that it becomes easy 
to believe in the greater. As we become acquainted 
with Jesus, we find it easy to believe that He is God. 
It is this humanness that we long for in God. 


“°*Tis the weakness in strength that I cry for, 

My flesh that I seek in the Godhead, 

I seek and I find it, O Saul, 

It shall be a Face like this face that receives thee, 
A Man like to me thou shalt love 

And be loved by forever, a Hand like this hand 
Shall throw open the gates of the new life to thee! 
See the Christ stand!” 


I believe in the Godhood of Jesus because of what 
He claims to do. There are those striking passages, 
such as: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are 
heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’ and “If ye 
abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask 
what ye will and it shall be done unto you!”” What 
amazing presumption in any but a God to make such 
statements as these! But I refer especially to those 
passages in which He claims to forgive sin, a thing 
which only God can do. He proved His ability to do 
it by wiping out the penalty. His enemies charged 
Him with blasphemy because He claimed to forgive 
sin and thus made Himself equal with God. But He 


185 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


replied: “Which is easier, to say, “hy sins be forgiven 
thee,’ or ‘Arise, take up thy bed and walk’?” That is: 
Which is easier, to forgive sin or to blot out its pen- 
alty? Then to prove that He had the power to forgive 
it, He blotted out the penalty of the man’s sin, and the 
paralytic stood before them whole. It was for this 
that they killed Him. He made Himself equal with 
God. He could easily have denied it, but He let the 
charge stand. He could not deny Himself. And so 
they crucified Him because He claimed to be God, and 
they were too blind to see the proof He offered to sup- 
port His claim. 

Again, I believe that Jesus is God because of what 
He does. One could believe in Him because of what 
He did, because of His ministry to stricken human 
nature during those years when He was here upon earth 
in the flesh. But we need not go back into the past. 
The people who assail the deity of Christ might be dis- 
posed to challenge the record again. Therefore let us 
take His work today. ‘““The Son of man has power on 
earth to forgive sin.”” The greatest miracle Christ ever 
performed He is daily performing. It is the miracle of 
raising, not a dead body, but a dead soul, of putting 
broken-down character on its feet again, of making the 
sinner a partaker of the divine nature. This miracu- 
lous ministry of Christ passes before our eyes daily. 
What He is doing today demonstrates His Godhood. 

I believe in the deity of Jesus because of Christ’s 
influence on the world. You cannot explain the early 
apostolic church if Jesus were a mere man. Before 


186 


IS JESUS GOD? 


His crucifixion, His disciples were timid, vacillating, 
cowardly. At the arrest they all forsook Him and fled. 
Then came that sudden change when nothing could 
daunt or deter them from their work, when they wel- 
comed trial, persecution, martyrdom. What wrought 
this marvelous change? Christ had come back from 
the dead, and they knew beyond the peradventure of a 
doubt that their Master was God. 

The rapid spread of Christianity during the first 
three centuries bears a similar testimony. There has 
been nothing like it in human history. We need to go 
back and read over again the story of those days. The 
faith of Jesus swept the world. So widespread was 
the acceptance of Christ that when the Roman emperor 
ordered the death of the Christians in a certain section 
of his army, he was told that to carry out the command 
would be to destroy the army. 

The effect of Christ’s influence on the world has been 
too big, too far-reaching, for a mere man to have pro- 
duced it. It is going on upon an ever-increasing scale. 
There is no power that can stop it. Jesus is the Hero 
of the world today. He is the conquering Christ. 

Added to all else is the experience of millions who 
can say with Paul: ‘I know whom I have believed!” 
One may not understand the dogma of the deity of 
Christ or the virgin birth or the resurrection, but he 
knows that only God can save, that it takes divine 
power to regenerate a soul. When one can say: “I 
know that I am saved,” he has an argument for the 


187 


Ik I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Godhood of his Saviour which nothing can challenge. 
He can more easily doubt himself. 


THE BURDEN OF PROOF ON THOSE WHO DENY 


Because of all this, and of other things that might 
be mentioned, we can go back to the prologue of John’s 
Gospel with renewed confidence. Is Jesus God? It 
is a question to be answered with a great affirmative. 
The burden of proof is not on those who affirm, but 
on those who deny the Godhood of Christ. They can 
never prove their denial, not only because it 1s impos- 
sible to prove a negative, but because the positive proof 
of Christ’s Godhood is unanswerable. What folly to 
try to build a sect around a negation! Even the devils 
believe and tremble. 

Should Christ go, who would take His place? There 
is no substitute. There are many religious leaders and 
teachers, There is only one Saviour, of Whom we may 
say with Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou 
hast the words of eternal life, and we believe and are 
sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living 
God!” 

It is not a smaller Christ the world needs today. 
It is a Christ bigger than all the creeds, bigger than all 
the churches. Christ is all of that. We have not yet 
explored His Personality. There are reserves in Him 
we have not touched. There are margins of power and 
sympathy and leadership awaiting the call of world 
conditions yet to be developed. We may rest assured 


188 


IS JESUS GOD? 


that as for the past, so for the future, this tall Figure 
on the world’s skyline will suffice for race leadership. 

Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that Christ does 
not shut out of His fellowship those who have but a 
partial view of what He is and of what He would do 
for them. Christ offers to men not a dogma, but Him- 
self. As He is received and followed and experi- 
enced, doubts dissolve, and Christ discovers Himself 
to His followers. It is possible to have intellectual 
difficulties about many questions connected with 
Christ, and at the same time exercise saving faith in 
Him, for it is not with the head, but with the heart, 
that man believeth unto righteousness. It is one thing 
to deny the deity of Christ. It is another, and a very 
different thing, to want to believe it but to find one- 
self hampered with honest intellectual difficulties. 
Thus hampered, one may receive Christ for all that He 
is and for all that He would do for him, and as Chris- 
tian experience unfolds, find faith taking the place of 
doubt. 

If one can do no better, he can at least do this. He 
can give Christ the benefit of his doubts. It were far 
better to believe in Jesus as God and be troubled with 
doubt, than not to believe in Jesus at all. “Give us 
your faiths,” said Goethe, “as for doubts, we have 
quite enough of our own.” Let us say with Richard 
Watson Gilder: 


“Tf Jesus Christ is a man 
And only a man, I say 


189 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


That of all mankind I will cleave to Him, 
And to Him will I cleave alway. 


But if Jesus Christ is a God, 

And the only God, I swear 

I will follow Him through heaven and hell, 
Through earth, the sea, and the air.” 


190 


Che Greatest Story Eber Cold 


By Rr. Rev. JAMgEs E. FREEMAN, D.D., BISHOP OF 
WASHINGTON 


“All they that heard it wondered.” 
—ST. LUKE 11-18 (part) 

E CATCH freshened enthusiasm and renewed 
inspiration from the old but ever new story of 

the birth of Christ. Somehow, there is that in all the 
incidents of this blessed and wondrous event that 
touches with greater power our deeper emotions, and 
calls forth from us the better and nobler impulses of 
our nature. Possibly no writer has made this more 
evident than Charles Dickens in his immortal ‘‘Christ- 
mas Carol.” The awakening of the latent and dor- 
mant nature of the selfish and repellant Scrooge, the 
almost miraculous change wrought in him through the 
joyous and hopeful appeal of the season that speaks 
of childhood and youth and of all those sacred asso- 
ciations that find their noblest expression in the things 
of the home, illustrate in a striking way the deeper 
meaning and purpose of the events that constitute the’ 
story of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem’s stable. No 
single incident recorded in human history has so 
gripped the imagination or compelled the reverent awe 
of men-the world over as this wholly picturesque and 


191 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


utterly homely scene. It is not surprising that when 
the shepherds on the hillsides of Judea told their 
story, ‘‘all they that heard it wondered.”’ From that 
day to this latest hour, in spite of all the strivings 
and contentions of men, the believers and unbelievers, 
the faithful and the unfaithful, men have said as these 
anniversaries of the birth of Christ recur: “Let us 
now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which 
is come to pass.” No far-famed capital, no great 
world center of learning, no gallery that houses the 
choicest of the master arts, so focuses and holds the 
vision of men as the obscure village in which Christ 
was born. No matter what our individual judgments 
may be, no matter what influences may conspire to 
separate and segregate us into groups and classes, yes, 
no matter what our creeds may state or may not state, 
the influence-that proceeds from the holy incidents 
that mark the birth of Christ makes all hearts coalesce, 
gives to life a new meaning, inspires it with a higher 
purpose and compels it to deeds of nobler service. 
There are some things that, as Tennyson says, “lie 
too deep for sound or foam.’ We try in vain to express 
them in language, forms and symbols, but they are too 
elusive, too utterly splendid, too far beyond our pow- 
ers of expression. They appeal to the imagination, 
they cause deep reflection, they call into action desires 
and impulses that give to life a new interpretation 
and sanctity. The birth of Christ, His wonderful min- 
istry, His incomparable teachings, His supreme sacri- 
fice on Calvary, His resurrection from the tomb, what 


192 


THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD 


language may we command to express our thought or 
our devotion concerning Him? There come to us in 
the course of life’s struggles and complexities, its Joys 
and its sorrows, hours when we feel the compulsions 
of these sacred incidents that overwhelm us with won- 
der and draw from us expressions of our highest adora- 
tion and devotion. It is amazing and well nigh in- 
comprehensible how this irresistible power of Christ 
persists. Not all the machinations of men, not all the 
oppositions of those who would resist the impulses of 
divine love, not all the clamor and strife of tongues, 
not all the wars and rumors of wars, can stay the 
power or influence that proceeds from Him who was 
born on Christmas Day. If it be true that the great 
epochs in human history have been marked by the 
rise of outstanding personalities, if now and again a 
single individual has been the means of ushering in a 
new era of human achievement, how transient and 
ephemeral seem their accomplishments when contrasted 
with that which is witnessed in the person of Jesus 
Christ. 

The world as we know it today, is passing through 
a period of tragic happenings such as it has never 
known before. The pathway over which our feet are 
passing is strewn with wrecks, wrought by the hot 
temper and havoc of war. Institutions that through 
the centuries we have builded have suffered shock and 
misfortune, and the very foundations themselves seem 
for the while at least to be shaken. Truly, 


193 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“Our little systems have their day, 
They have their day and cease to be.” 

Even the currents of our thought have suffered 
change and our genius for leadership in every depart- 
ment of life has experienced a seeming suspension. 
We repair to our laboratories and classrooms, our halls 
of legislation and our places of concourse seeking for 
light and direction. We cry “peace, peace, and there 
is no peace.” We turn to our sources of knowledge 
and experience and they avail us nothing. In the 
midst of all this turmoil and confusion, with men’s 
hearts failing them for fear, there are conspicuous evi- 
dences that the world is turning with greater assur- 
ance and more definite conviction to the supreme Mas- 
ter whose birth was marked by obscurity and lowliness. 
Already the hopeful are beginning to see on the hori- 
zons the dawn of a better day. Already there is made 
evident the influence that softens the hardened and 
apostate, that renders tender and responsive the im- 
penitent and sinning, that lights with a new sense of 
hope and expectation the lives of those who have been 
shadowed and darkened by sorrow or misfortune, and 
that fills with inspiration those who are looking for- 
ward to the realization of the ideals of a universal 
brotherhood. 

At such a time as this we dare not come to men with 
our fanciful theories and conjectures. The multitude 
is at our gates, insistently demanding, “Sirs, we would 
see Jesus.” A tired and disillusioned world is a-weary 
of all our speculations and negations. He was right 


194 


THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD 


who said, “Let our prophet come with a new mandate 
for the soul upon his lips and the people will hear him 
gladly.” 

Today in the midst of a disordered and distracted 
world there is no reasonable ground for theological 
controversy. Now as never before the insistent de- 
mand is for a Church that can present with unfailing 
fidelity the supreme Saviour of men, without obscur- 
ing or rendering uncertain or ambiguous His mighty 
teachings. The yearning of men for a vision of the 
uplifted and risen Saviour has never been greater than 
now. Anything and everything that tends to draw 
the vision of men away from Him, menaces the secur- 
ity of His Church and retards the happiness and peace 
of the world. In the midst of a condition that literally 
imperils our Christian civilization there is no room for 
the controversialist, no time for the discussion of those 
questions that tend to strife and division. To increase 
bitterness or party rivalry at such a critical time as the 
present when unity of action is indispensable to the 
securing of the most sacred interests of life, is folly, 
and can issue in nothing but disorder and confusion 
worse confounded. The great body of the laity, of 
every class, are calling for a faith expressed in simple 
terms that will serve to stabilize, refresh and inspire 
them in the midst of the world’s confusions and dis- 
tractions. Whether they can comprehend the formule 
of the Church or not, they expect to find at the heart 
of all our Church systems the central and supreme fig- 
ure of Christ. They have come to believe, even in the 


195 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


face of controversy and conflicting opinions, that in 
Christ alone and His teachings are to be found the cure 
for the ills that are causing the distresses and disorders 
of men and nations. To revive at such a time discus- 
sion concerning the niceties of creedal expression 
means to obscure His life and to seriously embarrass 
the one agency that is designed to bring order out 
of confusion. To proclaim to men the fact that “there 
is none other name under Heaven, given among men, 
whereby we must be saved,” is the immediate and 
supreme business of every man who has assumed the 
office of the sacred ministry. If we have magnified 
the agency or the method more than the Christ, if we 
have permitted conceits of learning or insular habits 
of thought to take the place of a consistently preached 
and exemplified Gospel, then let us with chastened 
spirits undertake to restore our sacred office to that 
function to which at our ordination we solemnly obli- 
gated ourselves. Loyalty to the major things is im- 
peratively demanded at this time. 

Reasonable latitude in interpretation, where sancti- 
fied discipline is exercised, has never been denied to 
either the clergy or the laity, it is not denied them 
today; but liberty in the large matter of interpreta- 
tion does not mean license. Loyalty to the central 
facts of our common faith as we hold them in the 
Apostles’ Creed, is imperatively demanded in a body 
that would challenge the respect and devotion of those 
who constitute its constituency. It is not the disputant 
or the controversialist who has given to men either 


196 


THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD 


the vision or the inspiration indispensable to life, but 
the consecrated prophet flaming with a passion for 
souls. We have differed in matters that concern the 
administration and relative importance of the Church’s 
offices; we have in spite of these differences maintained 
our solidarity and unity as a Church. Shall we at 
such a time as the present, when broader and greater 
opportunities are at hand, disclose an internal condi- 
tion that speaks of division, discord, suspicion and a 
tragic lack of Christian forbearance? The multitudes 
wait for the dispensed bread of life; shall we give 
them stones? 

The call for the prophet, the prophet who has been 
with Jesus and learned of Him, is insistent and urgent; 
shall the prophet come to his people with the discus- 
sions and controversies of the classroom, thinking the 
while that these can refresh and renew a jaded and 
sin-sick world? Where a vital and vitalizing faith is 
being preached, where men are purveying that which 
nourishes and renews, there the spent spiritual forces 
are renewed and the Saviour once again becomes reg- 
nant among men. Let us silence the voice of criticism 
and controversy, let us find our unity in Him whom 
we are pledged to serve, let us remember the needs, 
the indispensable needs of those to whom we 
are called to minister, let us put away from us all 
malice and in the broad spirit of Christian charity be 
generous to one another’s frailties. A challenging 
Christ is on the broad highways today seeking for the 
wandering and the lost; shall we not with renewed 


107 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


fidelity now join Him in the great quest, and in more 
stable times when men’s judgments are stronger and 
their tempers less feverish, give ourselves to those ques- 
tions that in the light of a clearer vision and better 
understanding call for calm consideration and dispas- 
sionate judgment? If loyalty to Him and His Church 
in this critical hour is the supreme need, may it be our 
high privilege to subordinate our wills and purposes to 
His sovereign will, that the transcendent claims of His 
kingdom may be made evident to the children of men. 

His voice is calling us today and its message is: 
“One is your master, even Christ, and all ye are breth- 
ren.”’ Let us seek for faith and order within our own 
household; let our only rivalry be, who best can serve 
Him, and serving Him we shall set forward the large 
concerns of His kingdom. 

The near approach of the blessed and joyous season 
of Christmas brings once again before our vision the 
story of the birth of Christ. It is inwrought in the 
dearest and finest things we treasure in life. It has 
furnished the inspiration of art, of poetry and of the 
nobler and truer things of domestic life. Through the 
long centuries, in the face of apostasy and sin and the 
horrors of war itself, men have been saying one to an- 
other, “let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see 
this thing which is come to pass.’’ Wondering as they 
believed its story, too deep for the mind of man to 
fathom, trying as they might through the medium of 
language to phrase their faith concerning it, their love 
of the circumstances attending the advent of Jesus 


198 


THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD 


Christ has impelled them to offer their gifts and to 
realize anew the meaning of the ancient prophecy, “a 
little child shall lead them.’ Here at Bethlehem, un- 
derstanding gives way to the sublime things of faith, 
and reverence takes the place of curiosity. The beauty 
of it commands the devotion of the careless and the 
indifferent alike. The learned and ignorant, the rich 
and the poor, the light-hearted and the sad, find in 
this incident that which compels their love, quickens 
their thought and satisfies their deepest aspirations. 
The very mystery of it all enhances its significance and 
renders it the most compelling and fascinating incident 
in human history. Our explanations of its meaning 
are unsatisfying, our theories concerning it divest it of 
its most appealing aspects; even the brush of Raphael 
falters as it attempts to give it its setting and beauty 
on canvas. Sublime in its simplicity, rich in its sig- 
nificance, unfathomable in its mystery, it stands as the 
witness of a love that is beyond our powers to ade- 
quately comprehend. | 

Once again a tired world turns to behold the Christ- 
child. Once again we lay aside all bitterness and 
wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking, with 
all malice, and in the spirit of true fraternity and the 
deepened consciousness of our common need, pay hom- 
age to Him who for our sakes became poor, that we 
through His poverty might be made rich. How poor 
and mean seems all our piled up national wealth, our 
proud intellectual conceits, our speculations and nega- 
tions, in the presence of this mighty mystery which 


199 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


this anniversary of the birth of Christ proclaims. 
What need, what tragic need there is today that we 
should with England’s great laureate say: 


“Our wills are ours, we know not why, 
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.” 


Away from our strifes and discords, away from our | 
selfishness and ignoble rivalries and competitions, 
away from everything that is petty and mean and un- 
worthy of our better natures, He is calling us today. 
There is that within us which cannot find satisfaction 
apart from Him. There are the unsolved problems, 
the bitter disappointments, the broken fellowships, the 
domestic tragedies, the enervating sorrows, the body 
and soul destroying sins to be overcome and mollified 
and healed. “Lord, to whom shall we go?’ Express 
it in what terms we will there is a language of the 
heart that the lips may not articulate that responds 
to the spirit of Him who was born on Christmas Day. 
Motherhood, the most sacred of all human relation- 
ships finds its apotheosis in the annal of the Bethlehem 
story. Blessed indeed among women, is the mother 
of Jesus. To her the world reverently turns as the 
greatest among women. Mary, mother of Christ, what 
sacred associations group themselves about her blessed 
person! Corregio, Raphael, Murillo, yes, all the high- 
est exponents of art come to this Bethlehem scene for 
inspiration, and from it derive the noblest and finest 
expressions of their genius. Motherhood and child- 
hood, what sublime and holy thoughts these awaken 


200 


THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD 


in the human breast. Even the embittering and hard- 
ening influences of the world that dull and chill the 
emotions, are softened and subdued as they feel the 
spell of this holy environment. Shall we not fervently 
hope that once again this old world, with all its dis- 
tractions and sorrows and sins, shall find its heart 
softened and its impulses ennobled, as with renewed 
reverence and devotion it turns to behold the blessed 
mother and child of Bethlehem? What care we for 
all the confusions and disputes of those who would 
seek to subtract from our belief concerning these holy 
incidents that which makes the story of Bethlehem 
altogether the most compelling and fascinating, yes 
the most rejuvenating and inspiring of all recorded 
annals? As we consider our unworthiness we stand 
abashed before mother and child. We have no lan- 
guage adequate to express our reverence and devotion. 
Only angel choirs are fit to sing His advent song, 
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to 
men of good will.” Our petty systems, our conceits 
of learning, our most august ceremonial pale into insig- 
nificance before the holy scene of Bethlehem. We re- 
turn to it today with renewed ardor, with quickened 
emotions, with reverent awe. While it baffles and 
embarrasses us, it challenges and silences all our specu- 
lations and negations, it touches the deeper and truer 
things of our nature, it lights up with divine radiance 
the meaning of life’s most sacred relationships; it 
makes the high purposes of God more evident to us, 
yes, it is Emmanuel—‘God with us,’ the fullest ap- 


201 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


proximation of all that the human mind is capable of 
comprehending of divinity. 


“How silently, how silently, 
The wondrous gift is given, 
So God imparts to human hearts 
The Blessings of His heaven. 
No ear may hear His coming, 
But in this world of sin, 
Where meek souls will receive Him still, 
The dear Christ enters in. 


O holy child of Bethlehem! 
Descend to us, we pray; 
Cast out our sin, and enter in, 

Be born in us to-day. 
We hear the Christmas angels 
The great glad tidings tell; 
Oh come to us, abide with us, 
Our Lord Emmanuel!” 


202 


Gneontestable Fact and Indispensable Cruth 


By Bishop WARREN A. CANDLER, METHODIST EPISCOPAL 
CHURCH, SOUTH 


“If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is 
also vain,” 
—I CORINTHIANS XV-14 


HRISTIANITY is pre-eminently a religion of 
fact; its source is not mythical and its nature is 
not speculative. 

It arose in historic events, advance in the enlight- 
ened period which followed the “Augustan Age’’ of 
Roma nliterature, and moved under the focalized light 
of Roman law, Grecian philosophy and Jewish reli- 
gion. “For this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 
20°\20. 

The supreme fact of this factual faith is that of the 
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

It is the only miracle that is indispensable to Chris- 
tianity. We are assured that “many other signs’ He 
“truly did” which are not recorded (John 20: 30 and 
21:25). Indeed, less than two score of the miraculous 
deeds wrought by Him are mentioned in the four Gos- 
pels. But myriads of miracles would not avail to 
establish His claims to divine authority, if He did 
not rise from the dead. If He did thus rise, the fact 
is sufficient to support the weight of all other miracles 


203 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


attributed to Him and to prove that He is “the Son 
of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness” 
(Romans 1:4). 

Jesus Himself emphasized His resurrection above 
all other signs as the full and final evidence of His 
divine character and heavenly mission. 

Early in His public ministry, He “went up to Jeru- 
salem,” and while there He drove from the Temple, 
the traders and money-changers who were defiling the 
holy place with ‘their corrupting commercialism; and 
when it was said to Him, “What sign shewest thou 
unto us, seeing thou doest these things?’ he answered, 
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it 
up,’ accompanying His answer doubtless with a ges- 
ture toward His body which made plain His meaning. 
The author of the Fourth Gospel says, “He spake of 
the temple of his body” (John 2:21); and evidently 
His questioners so understood Him, for after His cru- 
cifixion representatives of the same party said to 
Pilate, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, 
while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise 
again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made 
sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night 
and steal him away, and say unto the people He is 
risen from the dead: so that the last error shall be 
worse than the first” (Matthew 27:63 and 64). 

_ At a later date, when again a sign was demanded 
of Him, he responded with these burning words, “An 
evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; 
and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of 


204 


FACT AND TRUTH 


the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and 
three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of 
Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the 
earth” (Matthew 12: 38-40). 

It is not strange that our Lord rested His claims 
to saving power and regal authority upon the fact of 
His resurrection. It was essential to His Messiahship 
as the Incarnate Son of God. As such He was bound 
to die and bound to rise again. Otherwise He could 
not fulfill ‘‘the hope of Israel’’ nor accomplish the re- 
demption of mankind from sin and death. His resur- 
rection, therefore, was inevitable, ‘because it was not 
possible that He should be holden of death’ (Acts 
2:24). Hence His great and weighty words to His 
disciples: “Thus it is written and thus it behooved 
the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third 
day: and that repentance and remission of sins should 
be preached in His name among all nations, beginning 
at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” 
(Luke 24: 46-48). The culmination of His Messiah- 
ship was in His resurrection and the essence of the 
commission given by Him to His Apostles was witness- 
ing to the transcendent fact. 

Paul, therefore, was affirming no more than Jesus 
had taught, when writing to the Church at Corinth he 
declared, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching 
vain, and your faith is also vain.” 

In this noble Epistle, which is one of four the Paul- 
ine authorship of which the most radical of the critics 
admit is “undisputed and indisputable,” the great 


205 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Apostle affirms that the fact of the resurrection is axi- 
omatic in the Christian system and indispensable to it, 
Christian faith being both vacuous and futile without 
it. He assumes that no party in the factious Church 
at Corinth will deny it, whatever else might be the 
subject of doubt or debate among them. To it he 
appeals as a matter settled beyond all question and 
as a certainty by all Christians however divergent 
their views on other subjects might be. He avers most 
emphatically and solemnly that it was the source and 
support of the faith of the Corinthians and the cen- 
tral truth in the Apostolic preaching by which they 
had been brought to Christ and won to Christianity: 
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel 
which I preached unto you, which also ye received, 
and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if 
ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless 
ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you 
first of all that which I also received, how that Christ 
died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that 
he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” 
(I Corinthians 15:1-4). He thus affirms that the sav- 
ing gospel which he had preached to them, and which 
they had joyously received at the first was a sacred 
deposit, “del¢vered” to him and by him—not discov- 
ered—of the revealed truths of Christ’s atoning death 
and resurrection. These facts he proclaims, not as 
fanciful theories or sterile speculations, but as indis- 
pensable elements of their holy religion, deeply em- 
bedded in age-long Scriptures, the staple truths of 


206 


FACT AND TRUTH 


Apostolic preaching, and the very essence of the faith 
of all who might justly profess and call themselves 
Christians. On a factual foundation he rested the 
Gospel that he preached, and he made the fact of 
Christ’s resurrection its corner stone. And such, in- 
deed, it is to any true and real Gospel that is worthy 
of the name. 

Corinth has been justly characterized as “the Van- 
ity Fair of the Roman Empire,” and into the gay city 
all the currents of a foul, but alluring, paganism 
flowed. ‘Thither ran floods of commerce, waves of 
politics, and streams of philosophy, which mingled in 
a turbid tide that bore on its bosom peculiar perils 
to both the faith and practice of the Church among 
the Corinthians. Not the least of the influences which 
ill-affected the creed and conduct of the Christians in 
Corinth was a subtle and popular philosophy of a 
materialistic nature which had penetrated the minds 
of a considerable number among them. Like many 
modish-minded disciples of Christ in all times and 
places they were more eager to conform their faith 
to prevalent speculations than to bring “into captivity 
every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corin- 
thians 10:5). Hence they scouted the idea of the 
resurrection of the dead as a conception which was 
both unbelievable and undesirable. ‘They did not, 
however, propose on that account to renounce Chris- 
tianity flatly and unequivocally. They would cling 
to the name though they would modify its nature. 
They considered it a system, like other philosophies, 


207 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


which they were free and competent to review and re- 
vise and adapt as they saw fit. From it they would 
eliminate whatever seemed to them might be unreason- 
able and unwelcome to the carnal mind and retain such 
elements only as they esteemed to be essential and 
credible. They would cling to the simple story of 
Christ’s life in the flesh and would cast aside as worse 
than worthless any legendary additions which accord- 
ing to the science of their day were incredible state- 
ments of impossible events. 

They were quite ready to believe that Christ’s life 
on the earth was most beautiful and most worthy 
to be followed as an example of lofty living. They 
were willing to confess that He propounded in the 
Sermon on the Mount a heavenly doctrine of moral- 
ity, and that on Calvary He died heroically though 
shamefully. But whatever Paul and others might 
mean by affirming that He rose from the dead these 
rationalists at Corinth would not believe for a moment 
that His rising was such a bodily resurrection as con- 
travened their dogma that “there is no resurrection.” 
On that speculative pre-supposition they proposed to 
dismiss any thought or theory of the resurrection as 
unimportant and unessential, if not untrue. ' 

Perhaps they accounted themselves somewhat su- 
perior in intelligence to the Apostles and the average 
Christian because they possessed broader minds, had 
acquired greater learning, were more progressive, more 
tolerant, and more hospitable in thought, without being 
less devoted to Christian morality or less observant of 


208 


FACT AND TRUTH 


religious duty. It may be that they indulged the self- 
complacent notion that they were more sweet-spirited 
and more devout because they rejected unintelligible 
tenets which Paul and the majority of their fellow 
Christians held far too tenaciously and without just 
respect for “freedom of thought.” 

But Paul would have nothing of their imp and 
listless liberalism. Accordingly he gave them plainly 
to understand that to ignore, minify, explain away, 
or deny the resurrection of Christ is to renounce Chris- 
tianity altogether, that it is to deal the Christian faith 
a death blow at its heart, and is not merely to maim 
one of its members, which may be more or less comely 
and useful, but not essential to its life. And such, 
indeed, is the case, if the words of Jesus can be be- 
lieved, and the saving Gospel, proclaimed by the Apos- 
tles and received by the primitive Church, can be 
accepted. 

It is too plain for serious discussion that to deny 
the fact of Christ’s resurrection, or to explain it away 
by any speculative theory which robs it of its resur- 
rective nature and makes it a transmigration of His 
soul into a phantom form, destitute of His essential 
and perfected humanity, is to renounce historic Chris- 
tianity altogether. A Christ who did not rise from 
the tomb in which the Crucified One was buried is not 
the Christ revealed in the New Testament. Such a 
Christ has nothing in common with Him “whom the 
glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellow- 
ship of the Prophets, and the noble army of the 


209 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Martyrs praise; whom the Holy Church throughout 
the world doth acknowledge; who is the King of glory, 
the Everlasting Son of the Father.” 

The Christian Church owes its birth and its con- 
tinued life to the Christ who “did truly rise again 
from the dead, and took again His body, with all 
things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature 
wherewith He ascended into heaven, and there sit- 
teth until He return to judge all men at the last 
day.” Its vitalizing faith in its Risen Lord does not 
rest on a cunningly devised fable, nor spring from 
delusive hallucinations, nor arise from mythical leg- 
ends. By neither falsehood, fanaticism, nor fancy was 
Christianity created. A real and risen Christ created 
it; and the fact of His resurrection is central to its 
tenets, vital to its life, and inseparable from its his- 
tory. For its belief in this great fact the Church has 
been, and is, always ready “‘to give an answer to every 
man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in it” 
(I Peter 3:15); for no fact in all human history is bet- 
ter attested. 

Let us consider briefly a small part of the evidence 
by which it is established. (1) There és the positive 
and unequivocal testimony of competent and credible 
witnesses in proof of zt. 

(a) The men whose witnessing to it is set out in the 
four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles had perfect 
opportunity to know the fact to which they testified; 
and such personal knowledge was an indispensable 
requisite to their Apostleship. So said St. Peter when 


210 


FACT AND TRUTH 


he proposed the choosing of one to succeed Judas, 
who by transgression fell: “Wherefore of these men 
which have companied with us all the time that the 
Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning with 
the baptism of John, unto the same day that He was 
taken up from among us, must one be ordained to be 
a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1:21 and 
22). 

(b) They were not credulous and superstitious 
men, ready to believe anything however preposterous. 
It is recorded by them that their Master chided them 
for their slowness to believe what was foreshown by 
the Scriptures and fulfilled by His resurrection (Luke 
24:24 and 25 and John 20: 24-29). At the first sight 
of Him which some of them had of Him after His 
resurrection they were filled with fear and misappre- 
hension. ‘Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, 
and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they 
were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they 
had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye 
troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 
Behold my hands and my feet that it is I myself: 
handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and 
bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus 
spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet” (Luke 
24: 36-40). 

(c) They were not men of bad character, whose 
vices discredited them; but they were men against 
whose moral life no impeachment was ever brought. 

(d) They had no motive to deceive. They could 

va 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


gain nothing by preaching that Jesus had risen, if 
what they said was false. On the contrary, they lost 
everything, some losing life itself, for declaring the 
fact of the resurrection. It was their dying for the 
truth which so changed the meaning of the Greek 
word “martus’ which signified ‘“‘a witness,” until it 
came to mean “a martyr” witnessing by his death. 

(e) Whatever may be the real, or fancied, discrep- 
ancies in the several accounts which are given of the 
resurrection, however the narratives may vary in minor 
details, they all agree unanimously that the transcend- 
ent event really and truly took place; and the writers 
of the Gospels had no disagreements about it while 
they continued to live and labor together. Apparent 
discrepancies exclude the possibility of collusion upon 
the part of the witnesses, but they do not involve con- 
tradictions among them. 

Moreover, when Paul wrote his first Epistle to the 
Church at Corinth there were still living a majority of 
“five hundred brethren” (above two hundred and 
fifty) who together on one occasion had seen the risen 
Lord, and confirmed the testimony of Peter, James, 
John, and all the other Apostles. 

(f) It is idle to attempt to explain away all this 
testimony on any theory of “hallucinations” or “vis- 
ions.” The same delusion does not begin to possess 
so many persons at the same time and leave them all 
the same day. 

(2) Furthermore, the testimony of the evangelists 

212 


FACT AND TRUTH 


ts corroborated by the circumstances surrounding the 
event. 

Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover, the 
greatest feast of the Jews, which drew thousands to 
Jerusalem, where He was tried and executed. His 
trial and crucifixion by the civil authorities at the insti- 
gation of the Jewish Sanhedrin made it a subject of 
intense interest to all the inhabitants of the city and 
to all the visitors at the Feast. His ministry of 
preaching and healing had excited the nation for many 
months, and He had entered the city shortly before 
His trial amid the hosannas of a great multitude. 
He had predicted His rising from the dead, and His 
prediction was known to His enemies, who took the 
most careful precautions against any story of its ful- 
filment being believed. Accordingly, He was buried, 
the sepulchre was sealed with the seal of the Roman 
procurator, and a centurion’s guard of a hundred men 
was stationed by it to watch it. Now, with the body 
of Jesus thus entombed and guarded, one of three 
things must have taken place, viz: 

(a) His body lay in the grave and dissolved as do 
all dead bodies; (b) or, it was stolen away; (c) or 
He rose from the dead. There is no other alternative 
conceivable. 

Did it continue in the sepulchre and return to dust? 
Why, then, did not the foes of Christ and their fol- © 
lowers produce the body and thus summarily end the 
mischievous superstition about a resurrection which in 
less than a week began to be proclaimed? With His 


sue 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


lifeless body thus exhibited His disciples would have 
been dispersed beyond the possibility of their rallying 
again for the promotion of His cause. 

Was the body stolen away? How could any one, 
whether friend or foe, have perpetrated the theft with- 
out detection, at the time of the Passover, when the 
full moon in the Syrian sky made the night almost 
as bright as day, and when the eyes of thousands were 
fixed on the tomb in the garden around which a com- 
pany of Roman soldiers kept watch? But, if, despite 
these conditions, it was stolen, who committed the 
theft? His enemies? Why did they not produce it? 
If they had it, they had every motive to produce it 
and no possible reason for not bringing it forth. 

Did His disciples steal it? If so, how did they 
elude the guard? By bribery? For that they were 
too poor. By force? For that they were too timid: 
and too powerless. 

If they secured it by bribery or by force, why were 
they never indicted, convicted, and executed for the 
offense, as most assuredly they would have been if 
euilt could have been fixed upon them? 

Again, if His followers had on their hands the man- 
gled, lifeless and decaying body of Jesus, whence came 
their newly-found faith, which was so confident, and 
their restored courage which was so fearless? Whence 
their death-defying zeal, by which they were able to 
establish so rapidly and firmly large churches at Jeru- 
salem, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, in the cities of Gala- 


214 


FACT AND TRUTH 


tia and Macedonia, and ultimately at Rome, the dis- 
tant capital of the empire? 

Could a conscious and corrupt fraud so revive hope, 
quicken courage, and elevate moral character? Could 
a delusion so enthrall and empower men of their type, 
or captivate men of any type? Did a hallucination 
ever so stimulate faith, purify lives, and conquer the 
world? 

The facts of the case admit of but one explanation. 
The positive testimony of upright men, corroborated 
most perfectly by circumstantial evidence, proves con- 
clusively that Jesus rose from the dead. 

(3) The witness of St. Paul in his undisputed E pis- 
tles, and especially in his first letter to the Corinthians, 
adds cumulative force to the proof supplied by the 
four evangelists. 

These Epistles show that their author, within a very 
few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, had been con- 
verted to Christianity and changed from a cruel per- 
secutor of the Christians to a zealous propagandist 
of their religion. They reveal that both he and those 
to whom they were addressed believed most firmly in 
the fact of the resurrection and considered that fact 
as the very foundation of the faith which they pro- 
fessed. 

They show further that this belief in the risen 
Jesus was prevalent in churches as widely separated 
as those of Galatia, Corinth, and Rome, and that men 
of all parties and shades of opinion, however they 
might differ with respect to other matters, accepted 


Dhl 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


the resurrection of Jesus as a fact about which there 
could be no disputing among them. 

From these four Epistles it is clear beyond all rea- 
sonable doubt that within a very brief space after 
the crucifixion the Christian Church arose on the sole 
foundation of the confident belief that its crucified 
Messiah had been raised from the dead, and that it 
achieved speedily the greatest advancement through- 
out the Roman Empire. 

What can explain these incontrovertible facts, if 
Jesus did not rise from the dead? Did a delusion 
detach Saul of Tarsus, the persecuting Pharisee, from 
the school of Gamaliel and bind him in deathless devo- 
tion to Jesus of Nazareth? Did the delusion which 
deceived him spread as an evil distemper throughout 
all the widely scattered churches which he founded, 
yielding wherever it went a new and nobler type of life 
in all who were affected by it? If so, what a blessed 
hallucination it must have been! 

The miraculous birth of the Christian Church 
through the proclamation of the fact of Christ’s resur- 
rection, is scarcely more marvellous than the social 
effects which soon followed throughout the Roman 
Empire and the moral consequences which have con- 
tinued until the present day. 

At the beginning of the first century of the Chris- 
tian era, the wearied and hopeless world was sinking 
helplessly into utter chaos and despairing ruin. But 
a new era dawned as the propagators of the Gospel 
went forth everywhere preaching “Jesus and the resur- 


216 


FACT AND TRUTH 


rection” (Acts 17:18). Amid the desolations of the 
dying civilizations of that age a new force began to 
operate which renovated the nations that yielded to its 
influence and rescued them from anarchy and destruc- 
tion. A power of progress was released which has 
never ceased to persist. From that time until now, 
sustained advancement has been found only among the 
peoples who have most nearly followed the Risen 
Christ. Wherever this faith is found elevation of life 
and energy of enterprise are seen; and where it is 
not, inferiority and stagnation prevail. This cor- 
respondence of cause and effect cannot be accidental. 
A careful and candid consideration of the past history 
and present condition of the human race leads logic- 
ally to the conclusion that the Christian religion is the 
source of vitality from which the foremost nations 
have, and must, draw their life and vigor. If such is 
the case, it is the mightiest power for the regeneration 
of mankind that the world has ever known. Indeed, 
it is not too much to say that it has saved the world 
in the past and is the only saving power for the future. 
If its force were now withdrawn from the earth, the 
twentieth century would be as dark and despairing as 
was the first century before Christianity appeared. 

What is the secret of its power, if Christ did not 
rise from the dead? 

If the men who first preached this redeeming Gos- 
pel had not truly believed that their Lord had really 
risen from the dead, they would never have dared to 
proclaim it. Most certainly they would not have died 


oaally, 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


for it, as did most of them. Least of all, would Saul 
of Tarsus, in the noon-tide of his life, have renounced 
the teachings of Gamaliel, severed his position of 
honor in the sect of the Pharisees, and devoted all his 
remaining days to the propagation of this religion, if 
he had not been convinced that Jesus had risen and 
was alive forever more. In the first century, there- 
fore, no Gospel of Christ would have been preached 
and no Christian Church would have been born, if 
the great Apostle to the Gentiles and the other Apos- 
tles had not believed indubitably the fact of the resur- 
rection. And but for their confident belief and cou- 
tageous preaching there would be in our day also no 
Christianity for the men of the present day to dis- 
cuss and declare. 

Now, if Christ did not actually rise, the belief of 
the Apostles and the Churches which they founded was 
a delusion, and that delusion has saved the world! 
And the faith founded in that delusion is the religion 
of the foremost nations now living on the planet and 
the only hope of salvation for all mankind! If that 
be true, then delusion is better than knowledge and. 
falsehood better than truth! How monstrous is that 
conclusion! 

We cannot leave both Hope and Truth thus dis- 
honored in the closed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. 
All history unites its voice with the early believers, 
and cries joyously, “The Lord is risen indeed!” 

And this incontestable fact is not an isolated and 
sterile marvel. It gives rise to indispensable truth 


218 


FACT AND TRUTH 


directly pertaining to life and duty. The Risen Christ, 
“the Prince of Life,” is the source of all spiritual vital- 
ity because from Him issues through the Holy Spirit 
the transforming force which operates in regeneration 
and persists in sustaining the life of the regenerated 
soul. Because Christ lives the Christian lives also. 

This is the transcendent truth concerning which St. 
Paul wrote to the Ephesians when he told them that 
the new birth was the result of the “mighty power, 
which he [God] wrought in Christ when he raised 
him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand 
in the heavenly places far above all principality and 
power, and might and dominion, and every name that 
is named, not only in this world, but also in that which 
is to come” (Ephesians 1:20 and 21). 

It was from this superhuman source he informed 
the Galatians that his own spiritual life derived its 
existence, saying: “I am crucified with Christ: never- 
theless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and 
the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the 
faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave him- 
self for me” (Galatians 2:20). 

To the experience of this supernal life he called the 
Colossians when he said, “If ye then be risen with 
Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ 
sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). 

We are not to conceive that the power of Christ’s 
resurrection is a co-ercive force, constraining the soul 
and nullifying freedom. It is power that operates in 
the realm of the spiritual world in harmony with the 


219 


IF I HAD ONLY QNE SERMON TO PREACH 


laws of that world even as in accordance with the 
nature of the physical world it effectuated the bodily 
resurrection of the crucified Redeemer. 

Its consequences in the spiritual world, however, 
are not less real and wonderful. It effects a mighty 
renewal and exaltation of moral life analogous to 
nothing else so much as to the raising of Jesus from 
the dead. It does not co-erce, but it converts the soul; 
and conversion is no small change. 

Jesus described it as nothing less than being “born 
again”—‘“born from above” (John 3:3). It is such 
a union with the risen and ever living Savior as justi- 
fies the great Apostle saying: “If any man be in Christ, 
he is a new creation: old things are passed away; be- 
hold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 
5:17). In the Epistle to the Colossians it is set forth 
as a “deliverance from the power of the darkness 
and translation into the Kingdom of God’s dear son” 
which makes one “meet to be a partaker of the inheri- 
tance of the saints in light’? (Colossians 1:12 and 13). 

Christian life, therefore, is not an earth-born and 
commonplace thing. It arises from the great miracle 
of the resurrection repeated in the human. soul. 

They do greatly err who would have us believe that 
Jesus knew no bodily resurrection, and that belief in 
His resurrection is not necessary to Christian life. His 
resurrection was very real, and when it is reduced to 
a mere phantom, the source of Christian life is evap- 
orated and Christian experience becomes a shadowy 
and impotent mist of unreality. 


220 


FACT AND TRUTH 


The great facts of the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth 
of Jesus and His bodily Resurrection, are the founda- 
tions of the Christian faith and the perennial springs 
of Christian life. | 

Men need today, and will need forever, the Incarna- 
tion, as truly as did the men of the first century. It is 
no transient and sterile spectacle utterly unrelated to 
Christian experience. 

Johann Schefler wrote in perfect truth the beautiful 
lines, 


“Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, 
If He’s not born in thee, thy soul is still forlorn.” 


The obstacles to Christian life are too great to be 
overcome by a feeble faith; and the proper elevation 
of it is too lofty to be attained by an unmiraculous 
religion. It is reached and retained by “the power of 
‘ the resurrection.” No less force is equal to its initial 
production and perpetual promotion. 

Christ’s resurrection is the source of the power of 
Christian life in this world and the ground of its con- 
fident faith in the life eternal. “Christ in us” is the 
basis of our “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The 
heaven begun makes the heaven to come credible. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath 
begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection 
of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incor- 
ruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, re- 
served in heaven for us” (I Peter 1:3-4). 


221 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“Blest be the everlasting God, 
The Father of our Lord; 

Be his abounding mercy praised, 
His majesty adored. 


“When from the dead he raised his Son, 
And called him to the sky, 
He gave our souls a lively hope 
That they should never die. 


“‘There’s an inheritance divine, 
Reserved against that day, 

*Tis uncorrupted, undefiled, 
And cannot pass away. 


“Saints by the power of God are kept, 
Till the salvation come; 

We walk by faith, as strangers here, 
Till Christ shall take us home.” 


222 


Che Inspirational Lite 


By A. Z. Conrap, D.D., PARK STREET CONGREGATIONAL 
CHURCH, BOSTON 


“He breathed on them and saith unto them: ‘Receive ye the Holy 
Ghost.” 
—JOHN XX —22 


“But ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” 
—ACTS 1-8 


HE inspirational life is the life inbreathed of the 

Holy Spirit. Its source is definitely Divine. The 
natural partakes of the supernatural when the Holy 
Spirit is received into the soul. This is the strongest 
expression which could be used to indicate the defi- 
nite, Divine impartation to human personality. Jesus 
laid great emphasis upon the fact that when He had 
departed, God the Spirit would be an omnipresent 
fact universally available and would empower the Dis- 
ciples to fulfill their mission in life. This serious and 
beautiful assurance of our Lord occurred after His 
Resurrection and became the comforting guarantee of 
victory which emboldened the disciples to undertake 
the terrifically difficult task of propagating Christian- 
ity. They went again and again to martyrdom with 
calmness and without complaint because they had been 
empowered by the Holy Spirit to endure. Again and 
again Disciples spake far above the level of their ordi- 


229 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


nary intellectual ability, under the inspiration of the 
Divine Spirit. ‘Plus ultra’ is the inspiring legend 
confronting the thoughtful student at every frontier 
terminal. The circle of the demonstrated only widens 
the horizon of the unrevealed yet ever available. The 
inspirational life regards periods not as finalities, not 
as terminal points even, but as gateways to the unex- 
plored and undemonstrated. Each successful conclu- 
sion for the Christian represents only a new beginning. 
Just as we name the concluding period of academic 
study, commencement, because it is an inauguration 
of the larger term of study in life’s great university, 
so we designate each achievement in the Christian 
life as a beginning rather than an end. ‘The retro- 
spective and the reminiscent have a proper place at 
various points in life’s progress, but after all, the 
principal thing is outlook through inspiration. All 
great questions and problems, religious, sociological, 
scientific, political, express a kind of challenge to every 
serious-minded man or woman. Congratulation and fe- 
licitation is perfectly appropriate whenever some great 
task is completed, but far more important is a con- 
templation of the priceless privileges and matchless 
opportunities of life. The inspirational life has its 
regulative principles within and works under the spell 
of benign compulsions which lead to heroic endeavor 
without in the least limiting the freedom of the will. 
The inspirational life draws unceasingly upon invis- 
ible supplies and because reénforced is enabled to con- 
tribute continuously without exhaustion, to impart 


224 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


unceasingly without depletion. Being inbreathed of 
God such a life, in turn, inbreathes other lives and be- 
comes therefore doubly inspirational through what it 
receives and what it gives. 


THE PURSUED AND THE ATTAINED 


To every aspiring soul, the wide disparity between 
the pursued and the attained is nothing less than ap- 
palling. One is overawed by a sense of the potential 
mood. One is overwhelmed by the sense of the im- 
perative mood. May and must stand so far apart and 
yet so closely related, that you cannot contemplate 
one without the other. Between the idea and the real- 
ized the vastness of the distance would be dishearten- 
ing, were it not for the unmistakable assurance of the 
possibility of Divinely inbreathed wisdom and power. 
The ideal as it is presented to us, in Revelation, always 
appeals to us as the possible. “I ought, therefore I 
can.” Such was the dictum of the philosopher who 
more than most men of his day recognized the insep- 
arableness of duty and ability. We are utterly unable 
to free ourselves from a sense of obligation to do the 
thing that unaided finiteness is ever scornfully telling 
us is impossible. Somehow we know God imposes no 
duty which cannot be performed. “I ought” is af- 
firmed by the conscience of much that is vastly beyond 
the power of our natural ability. How can we recon- 
cile this urge to undertaking, seemingly so hopeless? 

Faith comes to our rescue at this very point. The 
pull and pursuit of a flying goal would make life 


225 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


confusing and even chaotic, if we were to be left to 
unaided finiteness. The ideals of life imperatively 
demand the assistance and contribution which only 
God can give. On the human side faith and faith 
alone can appropriate sufficiently the supernatural to 
make the claims of conscience consistent. An unde- 
fined sense of justice insists that ability and obligation 
must be in equilibrium. Who is willing to believe 
that our highest conceptions are tantalizing Utopias 
dooming us to lives of baffled endeavor and ultimate 
defeat? Faith answers the soul’s yearning cry for 
enough of Almightiness to enable us to move on ag- 
gressively, though every step be contested, to those 
celestial summits where all the beatific glory of trans- 
figuration becomes the normal experience of life. 
Every widening of the intellectual horizon, every new 
truth discovery increases the demand for an availing 
and achieving Faith. We must develop an ability 
to appropriate and utilize invisible, intangible treasure 
for the enrichment of life and the empowerment of 
the soul. Human aspiration utterly fails to enjoy, 
satisfaction through the offerings of the sense world. 
Equally evident is it, that processes of mentality how- 
ever energetic and persistent do not result in contribu- 
tions to personality that will meet the wants of an 
aspiring life. ‘The longest chain of logic stops of 
what is felt to be the final goal. Destiny is a large 
word. It points to an objective as high and as holy as 
origin. To the Author of life must we look for the 


226 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


inbreathing which will enable us to move on toward 
perfection. 


DIVINE RESOURCE ACCESSIBLE AND AVAILABLE 


We are conducted to the borderland of the defined 
and demonstrated and bidden to look out upon the 
vast immeasurable unknown with the eye of Faith in 
order that we may see that which is invisible and 
appropriate and enjoy what is both immeasurable and 
intangible to the natural senses. Natural and revealed 
religion alike declare for a communicative, contribut- 
ing, empowering God. Faith forms the connection be- 
tween the measurable and the Infinite. Soul satisfac- 
tion is measured only in terms of worship and service. 
The incentive to service is the conviction of the reality 
of that invisible treasure which Faith undertakes to 
make the possession of a soul. Conscious peace is 
impossible apart from conscious power. Hope dies in 
the presence of weakness. To be weak is to be miser- 
able. Ability is indispensable to complacency. Power 
itself is an inspirational thing. God has so ordered it 
that judicious employment is the sine qua non of in- 
creased bestowal. The man who hides his talent, is 
impoverished, without hope of release. In the cen- 
tral power station where power is generated for electric 
cars there is an automatic mechanism whereby power 
is only generated as it is called for by actual “draw” 
out on the line. If fifty cars are calling for power 
the generator will act to produce it. If half of the 
cars are idle, the generator refuses to send out the 


207 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


power and thus waste it. The life which seriously 
undertakes great tasks will be enforced for those tasks. 
Incompetents are those who are not engaged in behalf 
of humanity or for the glory of God. Edward the 
Black Prince at the battle of Cressy three times sent 
pathetic appeals to his father asking for reserves be- 
cause he thought the battle was going against him but 
the reserves were not sent and finally the answer pre- 
sented to him by a courier was this ““You have a father 
who loves you too much to withhold help when it is 
needed and one too wise not to know when it is really 
required.”” Much more true is this of the Infinite 
Father whose resources are measureless. Soul power 
is not determined by evolutionary processes, whereby 
capacity for the Divine is amplified, but rather by a 
vital and immediate connection with God Almighty in- 
suring His immediate response to the soul’s deepest 
call. We realize our ideals not by beatific contempla- 
tion but by an achieving faith and an energetic devo- 
tion. The world is rich in knowledge and in human 
wisdom. By no means let us disparage the wealth 
of learning from which we may draw. Our great libra- 
ries containing the ripest thoughts of the ripest minds 
in all the realms of learning may well be contemplated 
with satisfaction. They are a wonderful testimony to 
the self-sacrificing devotion of the men and women of 
past ages. They are a great reservoir, which may be 
employed to slake the thirst for learning experienced 
by the ardent youth of our time. Yet how poor would 
life be if its sole treasure consisted in the defined and 


228 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


demonstrated, the measured, the visible and the tan- 
gible. Schopenhauer, among the philosophers, reveals 
the fact that a sense of emptiness is felt when faith 
is abandoned; when faith makes no contributions to 
human life. His destructive mood resulted in a hope- 
less pessimism. Dean Swift caught in the maelstrom 
of doubt found little incentive to effort and nothing 
to gladden his sad heart as the even-tide of life came 
on. Edwin Arnold employed beautiful imagery to 
portray his thoughts but that does not conceal the dark 
and rayless night with its cold and chill and unrelieved 
peacelessness in which his latest years were spent. The 
seductive charm of “The Light of Asia” can not pos- 
sibly blind one to the fact that Arnold had lost the 
higher vision of the “Light of the World.” The life 
which is wanting in the inspirations which faith gives 
is portrayed in all of its gloomy hopelessness in James 
Thompson’s “City of Dreadful Night.” When last- 
century philosophy had proven faithless and the world 
turned to science in its search for relief a crass mate- 
rialism resulted. The declaration that nature is both 
inexorable and pitiless and that the world could not 
have been the work of a God of love was leading 
steadily toward Atheism. Darwin, Haeckel and Lewes 
all presented theories which left no place for any true 
ethic in nature. Such cosmic antagonism to revealed 
religion as they found was felt by believers to be un- 
true to fact and the reaction against their position 
was strong both inside and outside of the Church. 
Without disparaging the intellectualism of Hume, the 


229 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


powerful mentality of Kant or the poetic beauty of 
Arnold, this is to be said of all of them that they 
fail and utterly fail because they do not make for the 
Inspirational Life. A multitude of eminent scientists 
disagree absolutely with all those who find no place 
for ethics in nature. Browning and Tennyson and 
Wordsworth and Bryant and Whittier, thoroughly in- 
spirational in all their writings, have made large 
contributions to true faith in the highest and holiest. 
Faith which produces the Inspirational Life is not to 
be confused with mere credulity. Indeed there is no 
such thing as a blind faith. Faith must be rational. 
It rests upon foundations of highest and holiest rea- 
sons. It makes apparent the naturalness of the super- 
natural and the reasonableness of the superlogical. We 
have been moving steadily into a zone of thought 
which has as its slogan “Nothing above the natural.” 
It is an attitude which is necessarily prejudiced against 
true Revelation. This is a period of intense criticism 
and also of wide and earnest research. Christianity 
would encourage with all heartiness the intensest and 
devoutest thinking. No objection can be offered to 
the critical attitude provided it is reverent and un- 
prejudiced. Let it not be supposed that the scientific 
and philsophical research of today is altogether with- 
out spiritual incentive and spiritual objective. Emi- 
nent students in all departments of learning, devoutly 
Christian, commandingly intellectual, find no contra- 
diction whatsoever between a revealed religion and 
science. The demands of reason are continuous and 


230 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


inexorable but reason cannot answer her own demands 
or solve her own riddles until faith comes to give 
supersight and insight. 


HIGH IDEALS 


Life becomes truly inspirational only when it is 
harmonious with the Infinite will. Exalted ideals are 
the ever-present facts in the Inspirational Life. The 
life of Jesus was not only inspirational but it was 
thoroughly revolutionary in its ideals of life and liv- 
ing. The false estimates and motives which have so 
long obtained were corrected by Jesus who set a new 
value upon the worth of the individual, and presented 
human personality as God’s highest cpportunity. 
Jesus reversed the mathematical order as it obtains in 
the material world, when applied to spiritual realities. 
He taught that men must lose in order to gain, must 
seemingly suffer defeat in order to victory, must at- 
tain eminence through humility, must multiply by 
dividing, must die in order to live. The paradox, 
“When I am weak then am I strong,” was presented 
by Jesus as one of the greatest of life’s realities. Jesus 
manifested His greatest sympathy and interest in the 
nethermost and the hindermost who still aspire. His 
word of cheer was for the man outranked, yet run- 
ning. He taught the graciousness of sympathy, the 
sublimity of humility, the dignity of self-effacement, 
the Divineness of sacrifice. He declared for a brother- 
hood universal, for a pelitical and social economy 
highly ethical and for the true unity of the race. The 


234 


ks 


te, 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ideals of Jesus stand today as the most perfect expres- 
sion of Divine purpose the world has ever known. 
Emerson said, “‘Not failure but low aim is crime.” 
There are ideals exalted, inspired, toward which hu- 
manity must ever thrive, if they expect progress to be 
constant and uninterrupted. Materialism and natural- 
ism prohibit the higher conceptions and the finest dis- 
tinctions of life. One of the distinguishing character- 
istics of faith is its creating quality. The art galleries 
of the world, the libraries of the world, and the entire 
history of human achievement declare positively and 
unequivocally for faith’s inspirations. The paintings 
which make their strongest appeal to the soul were 
wrought by men to whom God had said, “Receive ye 
the Holy Ghost.” The same thing is true regarding 
musical compositions which have proven perennial 
fountains of joy. The great Oratories, the hymns of 
the Church which have done so much to develop her 
courage and enthusiasm have been the product of 
minds fairly saturated with the Spirit. 


POWER OF INITIATIVE 


The most exalted ideals are comparatively value- 
less until the fires of a great conviction blaze in them, 
and heroic courage undertakes to practicalize them in 
daily life. Timidity and hesitancy are natural be- 
cause of the apparently stupendous magnitude of tasks 
which confront the man who is seeking to actualize 
life’s ideals. Human ability is nowhere more resplen- 
dent than when expressing a power of initiative. Not 


222 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


following precedent but making precedent is the mark 
of greatness. The creators of a great literature, the 
founders of a State, the builders of nations, all have 
had an intrepid spirit of venture. The history of 
Christianity is the record of one long series of cou- 
rageous initiation leading the world to new social and 
industrial undertakings. The history of our own 
country is particularly rich in expression of the wis- 
dom and courage of personalities capable of initiating 
untried experiments in government. All reformations 
demand this same quality of initiative, backed up by 
the more serious and severe expressions of supernatural 
Power. Faith alone can produce the calm assurance 
which will lead to stupendous undertakings and the 
inauguration of great social movements looking to the 
betterment of humanity. Last century witnessed the 
successive moods of Atheism, Agnosticism, Material- 
ism, Naturalism, Rationalism and Idealism. Faith tri- 
umphantly passed through all of these and compelled 
each of them to make some contribution to her own 
complete victory. The cycle was completed and now 
we are entering again upon the same dismal round of 
unbelief with its depressing moral influence. Hebra- 
ism, Romanism and Hellenism at the beginnings of 
Christianity stood challenging the advance of faith. 
Each in turn was conquered and indeed was made to 
contribute to faith’s onward march. Recently an un- 
friendly science and hostile philosophy has been com- 
pelled to pay tribute to faith. The apostles of doubt 
and negation sing their dirges while Faith chants her 


233 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


pens of victory. Faith stands for the truly inspira- 
tional life. She asserts herself particularly in behalf 
of the poor and friendless and builds conspicuous wit- 
nesses to her power through men like Mueller and Ber- 
nardo. She goes into the darker places of our great 
cities in the name of university settlements and kin- 
dred philanthropies and awakens hope and stimulates 
ambition where they had been lost. Christian Faith 
declares for civic righteousness and social purity and 
is the soul of all true humanism. When the world 
loses her high ideals because intoxicated with her own 
powers of intellection, with a false science, with cold 
materialism, Faith speaks inspirationally and men 
catch glimpses of the glory of God and the grandeur 
of goodness. Just now the Christian world is needing 
the Divine inbreathing. Christ is calling to a Church 
none too enthusiastic, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” 
Whenever the Christian Church responds to this ap- 
peal of heaven she becomes immediately conscious of 
a new power and engages herself in the interests of a 
lost world. 


POWER OF ACHIEVEMENT 


Unfinished tasks confront us on every hand. Sus- 
tained effort requires more inspiration than determined 
attack. ‘“This man began to build and was not able 
to finish’ is the derisive and sometimes pathetic re- 
frain as we look upon the unfinished buildings about. 
us. Every spiritual advance is challenged. To carry 
to completion an inspired program tests both faith 


234 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


and courage to the uttermost. It is the reassurances 
of Faith which keep alive the fires of enthusiasm in 
the presence of chilling snows and multiplied perils. 
Spiritual imperialism is the high aim of those who 
love God and humanity. John Stuart Mill said, 
“Life is for knowledge.” Herbert Spencer said, 
“Knowledge is for life.” Faith says, “Both are right 
and all are for the imperialism of spirit.” Persistency 
in great undertakings demands a right perspective and 
a continuous inbreathing of God. Only unremitting 
and unwearying prosecution of apparently impossible 
tasks will insure ultimate coronation. 


PARALLELING. THE PURPOSES OF GOD 


That God has a plan and a purpose for each indi- 
vidual life, is clearly revealed. The acceptance of 
that fact has everything to do with courageous en- 
gagement. In the pursuit of ideals immeasurably 
beyond us; in the striving and struggling for sunlit 
summits, the supremely encouraging fact is, God 
Almighty has planned success and not failure for each 
individual. fParalleling the purposes of God is not 
only our highest duty but our one and only guarantee 
of making life worth living. Christ’s unique place 
in the history of the race lay in this one fact, He paral- 
leled the purposes of God. He said: “I do always 
the things that please Him.” The controlling objec- 
tive in a truly eminent life is the fulfilment of a 
Divine will. There are volumes of truth in the an- 
swer of the Westminster Catechism to the question: 


235 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“What is the chief end of man?’ “To glorify God 
and enjoy Him for ever.” The latter part of this 
answer 1s all too often neglected. We seem to fail to 
understand that God is not only to be obeyed but 
to enjoy. There should be therefore a supreme happi- 
ness in Christian service. Whenever a person can say 
of his avocation, ‘“To this end was I born and for this 
cause came I into the world,” then hope and happiness 
are sure to abound in that life. God Almighty is not 
to be regarded as a spectator, but as a participant. It 
makes a difference, to him, whether or not we suc- 
ceed. He is for us and not against us. When the 
will of God is the law of life, progress is as sure to 
follow as light follows the sunrise. Make the will 
of God the law of life and the purpose of God the 
plan of life and all the powers of earth and hell com- 
bined will be no match for your power and your wis- 
dom and nothing can prevent your success. 


WHAT IS WORTH WHILE % 


With regard to life’s activities a perfectly legiti- 
mate inquiry is this: does it pay? A thousand siren 
voices call upon us for our approbation and our patron- 
_ age and for the dedication of our gifts. Life is strug- 
gle, conflict, war. Waste is wickedness. What invest- 
ment will really pay dividends? What is worth 
while? A very eminent political leader in New York 
was asked upon his birthday for an expression of his 
feeling. He answered, “My years have been many. 
Some have been fruitful. Many of them have been 


236 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


barren. But none of them have been worth while.” /‘~ 
What a pathetic confession. No Disciple of Jesus’ 
Christ could possibly give utterance to such a thought. 
Who is willing to put up the fight of years, and labori- 
ously engage in life’s successive activities with only a 
probability that he will be compelled to say at sunset 
as he thinks of the years he has lived, ‘““None of them 
have been worth while.” The fact is, no fatalistic 
conception of the universe can make life worth living. 
If the individual is merely a product of chemical 
forces, and with no guarantee of immortality, life then 
is less than worth while, it is a rank and dismal failure. 
The lament of Lord Byron while he was yet in his 
youth, is a pitiful confession, that a life of unbelief 
is a life of distressing disaster. 


“My days are in the yellow leaf; 
The flowers and fruits of life are gone; 
The worm, the canker, and the grief 
Are mine alone!” 


Jesus Christ made perfectly evident that His coming 
into this world had just one purpose, “‘Abounding 
Life.”” No word in the English language is more filled 
with meaning than the short, simple word, “life.” In 
the Christian conception it is vastly more than exist- 
ence. Until man is more than man, he is less than 
really human. We come therefore, to the inquiry, 
“What are the conditions which man must fulfill in 
order to receive this inbreathing of God of which our 
text speaks?’ Man was created in the image of God. 
By his own act of transgression, he lost the glory given 


237 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


him at creation. One little word spells disaster to 
the human race, SIN. Sin introduces into the soul a 
destructive element which ultimately works complete 
ruin unless counter-acted. The only antidote for sin 
which has ever been effective is God’s inbreathing 
which is nothing more nor less than the Holy Spirit 
entering into the soul of man. Christ’s imperative to 
all humanity is this, “Ye must be born again.” To 
show His Infinite Love for the world, God the Son 
took upon Himself humanity and came in the like- 
ness of sinful flesh to walk with men and then die for 
man as the supreme evidence of the measureless love 
of God. The story of complete transformation is told 
in the third chapter of John’s Gospel. ‘God so loved 
the world that He gave His only begotten Son that 
whosover believeth in Him should not perish but have 
everlasting life.” There can be no mistaking the plain 
significance of the teaching of the Gospel regarding 
sin and salvation. ‘The lostness of man is no philo- 
sophical pinion. It is the clearest declaration of God’s 
revelation and human experience alike. Man is saved 
from the guilt of sin and the love of sinning in just 
one way. Regeneration through the Holy Spirit! Sal- 
vation either through character or the exercise of resi- 
dent forces in the soul is the worst of all delusions. 
In practical experience, it simply does not work. It is 
the testimony of untold millions that the acceptance 
of Jesus Christ, as a Personal Saviour, removes the 
burden of guilt and at the same time furnishes a pow- 
erful incentive to a Christ-like life. Nothing seems 


226 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


more chaotic and purposeless than the bobbin-throw- 
ing of the worker in the Gobelin tapestry, at the early 
stages. Among the hundreds of colors no appreciable 
plan is in view. But as time advances, harmony and 
order are brought out and the artist’s conception is 
materialized. However perfect the plan of the de- 
signer, unless the worker follows the design, his work 
will be a failure. It is precisely so in life. Nothing 
but obedience to the will of God can result in a per- 
fected life. There is one inner urge commanding and 
controlling which will lead to the very acme of human 
success, that is, love. The world has known no com- 
pulsion comparable to the compulsion of redemptive 
love. It was this which led Jesus voluntarily to go 
to His Cross. It is sacrificial love which today urges 
men and women to their most heroic achievement. 


DEFEATING GOD’S PLAN 


Nothing gives to life more serious thought than the 
perilous power of defeating God’s plan for us indi- 
vidually. In its broad and general scope there is no 
possible question but what God Almighty will carry 
His purposes to the utmost completeness. God has 
given to man, however, the power of abandoning His 
purpose and His will, thus defeating the Divine intent 
for the individual. A tiny bit of steel in the mariner’s 
compass will overcome the pull of the north pole and 
lead to the wreckage of the ship. Three things serve 
to bring us at cross purposes with God and induce 
failure. The fear of criticism; love of applause; the 


239 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


passion for pleasure. The one indispensable to the 
victorious life is the fulfilment of the exhortation of 
Jesus, “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and His 
righteousness.” 

A three-fold faith alone will make us irresistible. 
Belief in God, belief in humanity, belief in self. It 
is something to recognize personality and say “I am.” 
But a great step in advance has been taken when look- 
ing Godward you say with firm conviction and belief, 
“Thou art.”’ But the climax of hope and holy enthusi- 
asm only comes when you throw out the hand of faith 
and grasp the outstretched hand of Infinite love and 
say “Weare.” Then defeats are turned to victory and 
life’s sorrow to abiding joy. It is the glory of the In- 
spirational Life that it is climacteric. It always has 
outlook. Hope sits at the helm in all storms. In 
the Lion of Lucerne I see the type of character which — 
leaves a lasting monument after the day’s work is 
done. This marvelous sculpture after the plan of 
Thorwaldson, carved in the living rock, represents the 
King of the Forest dying, a broken lance protruding 
from his body. His outstretched paw protects the 
Bourbon lily on the shield and as though caressing it 
his head reaches out toward it affectionately. It was 
erected in memory of the Swiss guard who died de- 
fending the Tuileries in Paris. The immediate sug- 
gestion of the statue to me is: “Faithful unto death.” 
Such is precisely the distinguishing characteristic of the 
Inspirational Life. Such a life fears no foe and stops 
at no sacrifice. The crying need of the Christian 


240 


THE INSPIRATIONAL LIFE 


Church today is a recognition that the real dynamic of 
Christianity is the Holy Spirit. Our weakness has 
been our self-dependence. Jesus Christ is not less 
ready today to utter the words “Peace be unto you.” 
Upon those who will it so He still says: “Receive ye 
the Holy Spirit.” Conscious of Divine power, urged 
on by redeeming love, life becomes rich in opportunity 
and measureless in power and transcendently victori- 
ous. With Maltibe Babcock, we may sing confidently, 


“This is my Father’s world, 

Oh let me ne’er forget, 

Though wrong seems oft so strong, 
God is the ruler yet. 


“This is my Father’s world, 
The battle is not done. 

Jesus who died shall be satisfied, 
And earth and heaven be one. 


“This is my Father’s world, 

If ere my heart is sad, 

The Lord is King, 

Let the heavens ring, 

God reigns, let the earth be glad.” 


241 


Cibet Js Weligton? 


By Rev. James M. GILuis, EDITOR “CATHOLIC WORLD,” 
NEW YORK 


“Thou has made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless 
until they find rest in Thee.” 
—ST. AUGUSTINE 
HE most ancient and elementary desire of the 
human heart is the desire for God. Indeed, the 
passionate longing of man for God 1s not only ancient 
but aboriginal, not only deep-seated, but ineradicable. 
At certain times, and in some places, scepticism and 
materialism seem to prevail, but irreligion never really 
gets deep into the soul of the race. Religion always 
recurs, when artificial restraint is lifted, and if the 
restraint be prolonged, religion bursts forth with vio- 
lence. It cannot be permanently suppressed, any more 
than a volcano can be smothered. Some one has said, 
“Christianity has been disproven an unconscionable 
number of times.” Likewise, religion has been dis- 
credited in every century and every generation. But 
—and this fact is significant—the invidious task of 
driving out religion from men’s hearts always has to 
be done over again. Man reverts invariably to what 
is natural to him. ‘The latest attempt to wean man 
away from God is now in progress in Moscow and 
throughout Soviet Russia. But if the Bolshevik lead- 


242 


WHAT IS RELIGION ? 


ers had studied the history of revolutions, especially 
of religious revolutions, as carefully as they claim to 
have done, they would have shunned the absurdity of 
proscribing religion. They are but repeating the blun- 
ders of the past. Their only original contribution to 
the propaganda of atheism is a new slogan, “Religion 
is the opiate of the people.” They have adopted that 
battle cry in place of ‘“‘Ecrasons Pinfame,’ and other 
such formule. But religion is not to be slain with 
slogans. Nor can it be obliterated by governmental 
decrees, no matter how relentlessly and cruelly they 
may be enforced. If it were possible to raze all 
churches, temples, and synagogues, and to massacre 
every priest and every minister of religion, religion 
would spring up again out of the soil, and out of the 
human heart. The earth will not be rid of religion 
until it is rid of man. For man is incurably religious. 
Any one who, like Jesus Christ, “knows what is in 
man,” is aware of what has been called, quite aptly, 
“the inveterate mysticism of the human heart.” 

It will be interesting therefore to consider the pre- 
cise nature of this universal and indestructible phe- 
nomenon,—religion. Let us, therefore, ask the ques- 
tion, ““What is Religion?’ and let us come at our 
answer by means of a process of elimination. 


It must be evident, to all who read either history or 
psychology, that mere morality cannot be substituted 
for religion. There is, of course, a modern notion that 
the only safe and sane religion is morality,—‘“moral- 


243 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ity touched with emotion,” as Matthew Arnold used 
to say. To live clean, to work hard, to do good, to 
pay one’s debts, to be a desirable citizen,—and all 
that—is doubtless praiseworthy. But it is not reli- 
gion. Ethical culture bears the same relation to re- 
ligion as a marble statue bears to a creature of flesh 
and blood. Perhaps we all remember the story of 
the little girl who became dissatisfied with her doll, 
and declared that she wanted a “‘meat baby.” The 
race of mankind is like that. Ethical culture leaves 
it cold. All “natural religions” remain the playthings 
of little cliques of the soz-disante élite. Man, in the 
mass, will have nothing to do with them. He demands 
the supernatural, the mystical. True, this craving for 
the supernatural may open the door to superstition. 
But the human race has never been excessively chary 
of superstition. It will risk a little superstition rather 
than denature religion. 

Furthermore, (though it may savor of scandal to 
admit it) religion can exist without morality. I speak 
of a de facto condition, not of an ideal. Religion fre- 
quently exists, and even flourishes exuberantly, side by 
side with an atrophied morality. Religion can survive 
even when conscience is dead. So religion and moral- 
ity are not only not identical. They need not even 
be co-incident. 


Nor is religion to be confounded with philosophy. 
Philosophy is the pursuit of Truth, perhaps we may 
say, the worship of Truth. Now Truth is God, and 


244 


WHAT IS RELIGION ? 


hence to worship Truth might seem the same as to 
worship God. But religion is more than philosophy. 
A man may philosophize for a lifetime, and scarcely 
experience one moment of religious feeling, or per- 
form one act of religion. 

There is, (to mention but one difference) a sense 
of certainty in religion, that is wanting in philosophy. 
In pursuit of truth, the philosopher will follow one 
path for some distance, become perplexed, and retrace 
his steps, only to try another, and yet another road 
to his goal. But the religious man once he has found 
his road, holds to it, and as Chesterton has said of St. 
Joan of Arc, he “goes down it like a thunderbolt.” 
To change the metaphor,—the philosophical mind 
plays with truths, juggles truths, scrutinizes them, se- 
lects and rejects them, throws them down and picks 
them up again: but the religious man lays hold on 
Truth, and says to Truth, “I will not let Thee go!” 
“O Truth, my God, make me one with Thee, in ever- 
lasting love,” cries 4 Kempis. Has any philosopher 
loved truth so passionately ? 

Again, religion is not synonymous with theology. A 
man may be profoundly religious, and care but little 
for theology. In his impetuosity he may even utter 
words that seem to indicate disdain for theology. To 
quote again the author of the Imitation of Christ, 
“What signifies making a great dispute about hidden 
and obscure things . . . and what matter is it to us of 
genera or species. He to whom the Eternal Word 
speaketh is delivered from a multitude of opinions. 


245 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


What doth it profit thee to dispute learnedly of the 
Trinity, if thou be wanting in humility, and so be 
displeasing to the Trinity?’ Evidently the gentle 
saint who wrote these words was a bit impatient with 
some professional theologians, if not with theology it- 
self. But no one questions his being genuinely and 
deeply religious. Nor would even the most zealous 
champion of orthodoxy deny that religion pure and 
simple often exists in a soul innocent of theology. In 
fact, it is a familiar and favorite thought in theo- 
logical circles that the “old woman telling her beads 
under the pulpit” may love God, and be loved of God 
more than the learned Doctor of Divinity. 

Religion, therefore, is not identical with morality, 
or philosophy, or theology. What then Zs religion? 


Without attempting to give, at this moment, an 
adequate theological definition, let us say that pri- 
marily religion is the recognition of the fact that all 
creation is mysterious and points to an Ultimate and 
Eternal Mystery beyond this visible universe. ‘The 
origin of this religious instinct is doubtless supernatu- 
ral, that is to say, directly infused by God into the 
soul of man. But I think we may say that man’s nat- 
ural experience confirms the divine revelation. 

For the world in which we live is filled with mys- 
tery, and the sense of mystery is akin to the instinct 
of religion. I do not say that one who senses the mys- 
tery in the universe is necessarily religious. A poet or 


246 


WHAT IS RELIGION ? 


a philosopher may recognize the presence of mystery 
about us and yet not.be professedly religious. But the 
poet, the artist, the musician, the philosopher, the 
scientist, the scholar, in fine all who seek after truth 
or beauty, are, knowingly or unknowingly, “‘searchers 
after God.” If once they could but recognize that 
the all-pervading Mystery is personal, then the zeal 
of the scholar, the rapture and ecstasy of the artist 
and the poet would become religious experiences. ‘““He 
is not far from any one of you,” says St. Paul, quoting 
“one of your own poets.” “In Him we live and move 
and have our being.” He is like the atmosphere, which 
we cannot see, but in which and by which we live. He 
is more. He is like some one close to us, but invisible. 
“Our eyes are held” that we cannot see Him. But 
we “seek the Lord if haply (we) may feel after Him 
and find Him.” 

Lovers of Truth and Beauty, however they may 
differ, or imagine that they differ one from another, 
are all lovers of God. Some of them need to be 
warned in the words of St. Augustine, “seek what ye 
seek, but it is not where ye seek it.” But whether 
they seek wisely or unwisely, in the true direction or 
in the false, they are all restless with the passion for 
God; ‘““Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and 
our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.” 

Not only poets and other men of unusual talent, 
but all men, (except those who have been quite de- 
generated by an artificial civilization) are aware of 


247 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


an elusive but ever-present Reality behind the things 
that appear. “We cannot see His form but we can see 
His shadow. We cannot hear His Voice, but we can 
hear His footfall.’’ The nearness of the Unseen baf- 
fles us, provokes us, leads us on. If our hearts are 
tight, the presence of mystery subdues us, chastens 
us, makes us tread softly wherever we go. All ground 
is Holy Ground. Every bush may, as we gaze at it, 
become a burning bush. The poet, or the prophet, or 
the saint, is merely one who sees a bit clearer than the 
rest of us, and who, seeing, has the gift of telling, at 
least to some extent, what he sees. The poet, perhaps 
above other men, is a seer. If he be no seer, he is no 
poet. If he be a seer indeed, he can see beauty and 
glory, not only in a sunset and a waterfall, or a snow- 
capped mountain, but in those things that to the un- 
imaginative (that is, to those who cannot see the un- 
seen) are prosaic and sordid. Wordsworth has the 
truth, 

“There was a time when meadow, grove and stream, 

The earth and every common sight, 
To me did seem apparelled in celestial light.” 

One man, looking at a blade of grass, sees only an 
insignificant thing which “is to-day but to-morrow is 
cast into the oven;” 

“A primrose by a river’s brim, 


A yellow primrose is to him, 
And it is nothing more.” 


But the sight of a blade of grass, or a yellow prim- 
248 


WHAT IS RELIGION ? 


rose, or the fallen petal of a rose, prompts in the heart 
your true poet. 


“Thoughts that lie too deep for tears.” 


Here the poet is one with the mystic. Many stu- 
dents of the psychology of religion have recounted the 
mysterious illumination of nature in the eyes of one 
whose soul is newly awakened. ‘Natural objects 
were glorified. I saw beauty in every material object 
in the universe. The woods were vocal with heavenly 
music,” says one. And to another even his horses and 
hogs seemed changed, and, says a third, “When I went 
to the fields to work, every straw and head of the 
oats seemed, as it were, arrayed in a kind of rainbow 
glory.” 

It is easy to say that the poet or the mystic re- 
produces visions that exist only in his own exuberant 
imagination. But the fact that we cannot see what 
he sees is no proof that he does not see it. We see 
it after he sees it, as he makes us see it. The painter 
who puts on canvas, or the etcher who puts on paper, 
only the crass thing that strikes the carnal eye, is no 
artist. He must make us see what the eye does not see. 

It is so with the poet. He must make us see what 
“eye hath not seen,” and hear what “ear hath not 
heard.” Mrs. Meynell, in one of her charming little 
introductions to certain selected poems in The Flower 
of the Mind, exclaims, ‘““How often we say ‘It was so 
beautiful that I have no words to express it,’”’ adding, 


9 


“Tennyson has the words!” Yet it was Tennyson 


249 


IF IT HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


who lamented, “I would that my tongue could utter 
the thoughts that arise in me.” The truth is that some- 
times he had the words, and again he had not the 
words. Every seer sees more than he can tell. St. 
Paul, St. Teresa, all the prophets and poets and mys- 
tics, tell us much of the other world, and then com- 
plain that they can’t even begin to tell us. 

Now, what the poets and the artists and the mystics 
cannot tell us, is the very object of religion. They are 
_all concerned primarily with the Invisible. Even the 
devout simple believer, who sees no visions, experi- 
ences no ecstasies, is, none the less, in aspirations and 
longing reaching out to the unseen. Where there is 
none of this longing and effort, there is no religion. 

All the universe, then, is mystery. But even more, 
man is mystery. Human nature is more inscrutable 
than any visible or tangible object. They who deny 
the mystery in man can never have studied man. ‘““The 
proper study of mankind is man,” but it is a difficult 
study, and few there are that have either the patience 
or the wisdom to undertake it. But, properly studied, 
the heart and mind of man are a revelation of God. 
For man is made “in the image and likeness of God,” 
and to know man is to begin to know God. Shake- 
speare, in common with all poets, felt the mystery. 
Witness the paradox: “In action how like an angel, 
in apprehension how like a God,” and yet “‘this quin- 
tessence of dust.” Man himself is mystery more baf- 
fling than either the inanimate or the brute creation. 

Yor that reason, the outstanding geniuses of the 


250 


WHAT: IS RELIGION ? 


human race are not those who have studied the course 
of the planets around the sun, not those who have 
spent long lives humped over books in libraries, with 
their be-spectacled eyes riveted on some “volume of 
forgotten lore;” not those who potter about in chemi- 
cal laboratories scrutinizing the contents of test tubes, 
or peering through the lenses of a microscope to spy 
upon the antics of some wriggling bacilli; not those 
who ensconce themselves in a cage in the heart of the 
jungle to catch upon a phonographic disk the sounds 
that they are pleased to call the speech of monkeys: 
not these are the superlatively great men of our race, 
but those who have by intuition the uncanny power 
of penetrating flesh and blood, of reading the revela- 
tion that has been written on the “‘fleshly tables of 
the heart,” and then of revealing man to himself. One 
of the young men who listened to Newman at St. 
Mary’s, Oxford, used to say that the secret of the 
power the great preacher exercised over the under- 
graduates was that “‘he revealed ourselves to ourselves, 
and the revelation startled us.” The revelation of 
man to man is a work worthy of an inspired prophet. 
The sacred scriptures, be it remembered, are as much 
a revelation of man, as they are of God. But whether 
one read the inspired scriptures, or the heart of man, 
or the documents of human history, one fact repeat- 
edly emerges: ‘In the last resort, the destinies of 
mankind are invariably guided, not by the concrete 
‘facts’ of the sense world, but by concepts which are 
acknowledged by every one to exist only on the men- 


251 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


tal plane. In the great moments of existence, when 
he rises to spiritual freedom, these are the things which 
every man feels to be real. It is by these and for these 
that he is found willing to live, work, suffer, and die. 
Love, empire, religion, altruism, fame, all belong to 
the transcendental world.” That is to say, to put it 
baldly, man is preéminently a religious being. 

I have included scientists among those engaged in 
the high and holy vocation of interpreting God and 
man and the universe. Unfortunately, some scien- 
tists have failed to see the dignity of their own calling. 
_Haeckel—to take the most extreme example—de- 
\ clares, in his offensively dogmatic way, “Our human 
/ nature, which exalted itself into an image of God, 
sinks (under scientific scrutiny) to the level of a pla- 
| cental mammal, which has no more value for the uni- 
' verse at large than the ant, or the fly of a summer’s 
| day, the microsopic énfusoréum, or the smallest bacil- 
| lus.” The trouble with such dicta as these is that they 
contradict the aboriginal conviction of the human race. 
There is no need of refuting Haeckel, still less of 
growing angry with him. He himself is the one who 
seems to be angry with all mankind. But it is fool- 
ish, not to say arrogant to get angry with the human 
race. The race has a way of vindicating itself. The 
individual dies, and the race continues. And the race, 
as we have seen, returns again and again, infallibly 
to religion. ‘The true scientist will take account of 
that fact, and deal with it, as scientists are wont to 
deal with any fact,—reverently. 


va) 


WHAT IS RELIGION ? 


It is frequently said, by apologists of religion, that 
science does not conflict with religion. But to say 
merely that there is no conflict, is to understate the 
truth most miserably. Science and religion have the 
same subject matter,—mystery. Men used to say, 
“Philosophy is the handmaid of religion.” Men will 
say, in centuries to come, “Science is the coadjutor of 
religion.” The scientist, like the theologian, is trying 
to penetrate the veil that separates the seen from the 
unseen, the known from the unknown. And every 
time the scientist sees something beyond, he also sees, 
in the selfsame flash of light, that the unknown world 
is vaster and more marvelous than he had hitherto 
imagined. I wonder that scientists, at work in their 
laboratories or their observatories, do not collapse to 
their knees, and bow their heads in silent adoration of 
the vast Unseen. Perhaps they do. Keats imagined 
that the astronomers and explorers felt the same mys- 
tic exaltation as the poets, “Then felt I like some 
watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his 
ken.” Is there not ecstasy and silent worship under 
the little domes of observatories, as under the big dome 
of heaven? And did not “stout Cortes’ (let us grant 
Keats his Cortes) “and all his men, look at each other 
with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien’? 

This is religion, and poetry, and science. They are 
all essentially the same. They are all concerned ulti- 
mately with the Unseen, the I]limitable, the Infinite, 
the only Partially Known. Some pseudo-scientists, 
of narrow mental gauge, think and say that science 


253 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


has done away with mystery and miracle. True scien- 
tists know that science has enormously increased the 
sense of mystery, and that all nature is a huge miracle. 
We have no miracle in religion greater than the 
miracle of the rising and setting of the sun. The ro- 
tation of the earth upon its axis is as bewildering to 
the brain as the procession of the Son and the Holy 
Ghost from the Father. Electricity is as mysterious 
and as incomprehensible as the Blessed Eucharist. 
Even Huxley used to say that one could not experi- 
ment with the physical without promptly encountering 
the metaphysical, and that there is as much mystery 
in a hen’s egg as in the Trinity. The origin of a hu- 
man being, from the coalition of a couple of micro- 
scopic particles, which bear no more resemblance to a 
human body than an invisible mite of marble dust to 
the Venus de Milo, is so great a mystery that the 
Church insists that marriage is a matter of religion— 
a sacrament. All is holy, all is good, save sin,—just 
as all is mystery. They that have caught a glimpse 
of these things have commenced to be religious. 
They have commenced to be religious. But it can- 
not be said that they have attained to the fullness of 
religion. The object of divine worship cannot be 
blank bewildering mystery. We cannot adore Real- 
ity-Behind-the-Phenomenon. The object of worship is 
a Person,—God. Religion is not merely awe and 
adoration. It is love and possession of the Beloved. 
“Whom you therefore ignorantly worship, (the Un- 
known God,) Him we declare unto you,” says St. 


254 


WHAT IS RELIGION 2 


Paul. And the declaration is that God has indeed 
come very close to us. God has become incarnate, in 
the Person of Jesus Christ. The last word of Revela- 
tion is ‘““The Word was made Flesh.” God, the in- 
finite Mystery has become visible and tangible. “That 
which was from the beginning, which we have heard, 
which we have seen with our eyes, which’ we have 
looked upon, and our hands have handled... we 
declare unto you,” says the Apostle, St. John. God 
has not remained “out beyond the shining of the far- 
thest star.” He has made it His “‘delight to be with 
the children of men.” 

The Incarnation will seem incredible, and beyond 
all expectation only to those who have not studied 
the heart of man. There is, in the book of Exodus, a 
statement that on one occasion the people said to 
Moses, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear, but let 
not God speak unto us, lest we die.” But habitually 
the human race has spoken boldly to God and has 
demanded that God, in return, shall speak to His 
creatures. “Keep not Thou silence, O God,’’ cries 
David, “hold not Thy peace, and be not still.” “Speak, 
Lord, for Thy servant heareth,” says Samuel. 

Even more,—man has importuned God not merely 
to speak to man but to permit Himself to be seen by 
man. “Oh that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and 
come down. Drop Him down as dew, O ye heavens, 
and ye clouds rain down the Just One,” says the 
prophet. And the psalmist is equally insistent: “My 
heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God... 


255 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


How long, Lord, wilt Thou hide Thyself forever. 
Hide not Thy face. As the eyes of servants look 
unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a 
maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait 
upon the Lord our God. As the heart panteth after 
the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O 
God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. 
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they 
continually say to me, where is thy God?” 

I need not continue. Those to whom the psalms are 
familiar (and who is there who does not think and 
pray with the spirit and the very words of the psalms) 
will know that these outpourings of the soul of David 
are in reality the unburdening of the heart of mankind. 
The voice is the voice of David, but the sentiment is 
that of the whole human race. The sentence of St. 
Augustine, ‘““Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, 
and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee,” 
is an epitome of all the hunger and thirst, the passion- 
ate demand for God on the part of all races and tribes 
and peoples in all ages. Possession of God, union 
with God, not merely in a remote kingdom of the fu- 
ture, but here, now, on this earth, is the ultimate de- 
mand of the religious instinct in man. 

It is a primary tenet of all religions that God has 
condescended to this cry of the race. But in Chris- 
tianity, the union of God and man first in the Person 
of Jesus Christ, and secondly through Jesus Christ 
with every man, at least with these men “who are 


256 


WHAT IS RELIGION ? 


born not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of 
man, but of God,” is the very essence of the faith. 

Man, therefore, begins with a sense of awe in the 
presence of all-pervading mystery, rises to a knowledge 
that the Mystery is God; comes to know that God is 
not a mere Force or a Presence, but a Person. He 
reaches out to that Person, demanding union. The 
union is achieved. Man and God are united. ‘This, 
in the understanding of the race, is Religion. 


257 


“Beholy, the Wane” 


By Cuar_tes Epwarp JEFFERSON, D.D., BROADWAY 
TABERNACLE, NEW YORK 


“Behold, the man.” 
—JOHN XIX—5 


HESE words are from the lips of Pontius Pilate. 
They were spoken in one of the most dramatic 
moments in the history of the world. A Roman Pro- 
curator stands face to face with a crowd of angry Jews 
in the City of Jerusalem. Between the Roman official 
and the crowd there stands a prisoner. The Roman 
Procurator wants to release the prisoner, the crowd 
desires to kill him. Pilate has made four attempts to 
save the prisoner’s life. When Jesus was first pre- 
sented to him he refused to have anything to do with 
the case. ‘Take this man,” he said, “and judge him 
yourselves.” The crowd shrieked back, “We don’t 
want to judge him ourselves, for we have no authority 
to put a prisoner to death, and we are determined that 
this man shall die.” After quizzing Jesus for a few 
moments and learning He was from Galilee, the bright 
idea occurred to Pilate that this was a case within the 
jurisdiction of Herod. It so chanced that Herod was 
in Jerusalem on that very day, and to Herod therefore 
Jesus was sent. Herod had long wanted to see Jesus, 


258 


“BEHOLD, THE MAN!” 


and proceeded to ask Him questions, but to the ques- 
tions the prisoner gave no answer. What can a judge 
do with a prisoner who remains dumb? Jesus was 
sent back to Pilate. Pilate has not yet exhausted his 
list of expedients. There is a custom by which the 
Procurator releases every spring at the time of the 
Passover, a Jewish prisoner, and why should not Jesus 
be released? The suggestion is offered but is instantly 
rejected. The crowd would rather have any other 
prisoner than Jesus released. Even Barabbas, the 
notorious robber, was more acceptable than He. Being 
thwarted again, Pilate now decides to compromise 
with the crowd by having Jesus scourged. He will 
punish Him even though Jesus is guiltless, and after 
the scourging will set Him free. This scourging was 
a brutal form of punishment. The thongs were 
weighted with pieces of metal and of bone, and when 
the whip fell on the back the flesh was lacerated hor- 
ribly. Sometimes the prisoner died before this awful 
ordeal was completed. Jesus did not die, and there- 
fore the soldiers decided to have some fun with Him. 
They had heard Jesus claimed to be a King, and if He 
were indeed a King, why should He not look like one? 
They decided to dress Him like a King. One of the 
soldiers found an old military cloak in the barracks. 
It was worn and soiled, but it was good enough for a 
Jewish King, and this was put on Him. A King 
ought to have a scepter and so a reed was brought and 
put in Jesus’ hand. It was a fragile scepter but good 
enough for a King of the Jews. A King ought to 


259 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


have a crown, and a soldier hurried out and broke a 
few twigs from a prickly bush at the door, and weav- 
ing these twigs into a wreath he jammed the wreath 
down on Jesus’ head. Being now properly dressed, the 
soldiers began to salute Him. “Hail King,” they 
said, and as they spoke they kneeled and on rising 
completed the salute by slapping Jesus in the face. 
Some of the soldiers went so far as to spit upon Him. 
How long this tragedy went on we do not know. It 
soon ceased to be funny, and Jesus was led once more 
to Pilate. The Procurator can say only what he has 
said several times before—“I find no crime in Him.” 
Gazing on Jesus for a moment, clad in the crown of 
thorns and the purple cloak, he exclaimed, “Behold, 
the Man!” In Latin the words were “Ecce Homo.” 
Translated into our English they mean, “Here’s the 
Man!” 

In what mood and with what accent did Pilate 
say, “Ecce Homo’? We donot know. It is said that 
the vibrations of the voice pass into the ether, and we 
know from experience that by the proper apparatus we 
can pick up these vibrations and transmit them to the 
brain. It may be that the vibrations of Pilate’s voice 
are still in the ether, and that at some future time we 
may be able to pick up vibrations even two thousand 
years old. He is a bold man who dares assert that 
anything is impossible. Possibly Pilate spoke in dis- 
gust. He may have said, “Look at the revolting fel- 
low! Set your eyes on the bloody creature! Gaze on 
the harmless lunatic! Why do you want to waste 


260 


“BEHOLD, THE MAN!” 


any more time on Him?” Or he may have spoken in 
pity. He may have said, “Look at the poor devil, 
don’t you pity Him? See the blood on His face and 
on His back. Don’t you think He has suffered 
enough? Surely you do not want to kill Him now?” 
Or he may have spoken in a voice which expressed ad- 
miration. “Look at His composure! Look at His 
patience! Look at His poise! Whoever He may be 
He has the bearing of a king. Look at the kindly look 
in His eyes!” 

Or he may have spoken in tones solemnized by awe. 
We know that Pilate was afraid of Jesus. Jesus 
frightened him by His silence. Jesus had a fashion 
of falling silent when other men were in the habit of 
speaking. And moreover Jesus had a mysterious way 
of talking. He said things which went out one could 
not tell how far, and used words which left the heart 
wondering. Moreover Pilate had received a message 
early in the day from his wife saying, “Have nothing 
to do with that righteous man. I had a dream about 
Him and I am very unhappy because of that dream.” 
It may be that Pilate spoke in mingled pity and awe. 

We know the effect on the crowd. Pilate’s words 
did not soften the hearts of the chief priests and their 
officers but hardened them. They did not quiet Jesus’ 
accusers but infuriated them. With one voice they 
“cried out.’ Our English word is too weak to express 
the full content of the Greek word. They shouted 
out, they yelled, they roared, “Crucify Him! Crucify 


261 


IF 1 HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Bini \ hece homo said) Pilate. “Crucity hin) 
thundered the crowd. 

What strange things happen in this world of ours. 
Only a few hundred men looked on Jesus when Pilate 
spoke his two Latin words, but at the end of the cen- 
tury tens of thousands of men were gazing on the 
prisoner wearing the crown of thorns. At the end of 
the second century hundreds of thousands of men and 
women were looking at Him. At the end of three 
hundred years five million human beings were looking 
at Him. At the end of five hundred years the number 
had increased to fifteen millions. At the end of a thou- 
sand years the crowd had swollen to fifty millions and 
at the end of fifteen hundred years it had reached one 
hundred millions. ‘Through the last four hundred 
years the number has been rapidly increasing, first 
one hundred and twenty-five millions, then one hun- 
dred and fifty millions, then two hundred millions, 
then three hundred millions, then four hundred miul- 
lions, and now today there are over five hundred mil- 
lions gazing on this King with the crown of thorns and 
the scarlet cloak. These five hundred millions gaze on 
Him in reverence and adoration, confessing them- 
selves to be His disciples, and behind and around these 
five hundred million disciples there are another five 
hundred millions who look on as spectators dumb- 
founded and wondering. So far as we can now see 
the time is coming when all the seventeen hundred 
million human beings on our planet will have their 
eyes fixed on Jesus. It is more obviously certain today 


262 


“BEHOLD, THE MAN!”> 


than it has been at any time since Paul wrote his im- 
mortal words, that every knee will some day bow to 
Him, and every tongue will confess that He is indeed 
the master of the world. 

Ecce Homo! This is what the church keeps saying 
all the way around the world. This is the message of 
all preachers. They are ministers of Christ. They 
are witnesses for Christ. Their business is to point 
men to Christ. This is the work also of Bible teachers. 
The goal of all Bible study is Christ. We search the 
Scriptures in order to increase our knowledge of Christ. 
Alas for the preacher or the Bible teacher who allows 
his eyes to wander away from Christ. We do not 
say, ‘Behold Christendom!” Christendom is shabby 
and we cannot inspire the world by extolling it. We 
do not say “Behold the church!” The church has 
many shining traits, and we who love her do well to 
ponder often her grace and her power, but it is not 
the church which we hold aloft for the world’s con- 
templation. It is not an institution but a man upon 
whom we desire to fix the attention of mankind. We 
do not hold up Bible heroes as examples, for all of 
them sinned and fell short of the glory of God. There 
is only one man whom we urge men to follow—the 
man who was crucified between robbers. We do not 
say, Look at us! Admire) us!) \Imitate ust). We 
turn away from ourselves. Of our virtues and graces 
we have nothing to say. Our one exhortation is, “Be- 
hold, the Man!” It is only by fixing the eyes and 

262 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


the heart upon this man that the human race can 
get on. 

Through nineteen hundred years the church has been 
saying, “Behold the Man!” and the world has given 
heed to the invitation. The world has seen the man, 
and because it has seen Him, it is not slow to pass 
censure on His professed followers. One is puzzled 
sometimes to account for the merciless castigation of 
Christians at the hands of non-Christians, but this 
castigation is severe because the world insists on judg- 
ing Christians by the standards of Christ. Men have 
heard His words and caught sight of His ideals, and it 
is because professing Christians fall so far short of 
these ideals that the vials of condemnation are poured 
out upon them. The church is constantly cudgeled 
by a great company of outsiders who persist in judging 
the church by the standards of Christ. Christians 
when compared with non-Christians make on the whole 
a highly favorable showing, but when Christians are 
compared with Christ the contrast is so glaring that 
those who sit in the seat of the scornful cannot remain 
silent. The church says, “Behold, the Man!” The 
world looks at Him, and then, gazing on the Christian, 
says to him, “You are not that kind of man!” From 
this judgment there is no escape. Paul long ago de- 
clared in the city of Athens that humanity had entered 
upon a new era in which God was going to judge the 
world by the man who He had ordained, the man 
who had been crucified and who had risen from the 
dead. That is what God is doing. He is judging 


264 ; 


“BEHOLD, THE MAN!” 


the world by Jesus Christ. We all without exception 
stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give ac- 
count for the things we say and do. The Orient is not 
yet Christian, but the Orient judges the West by the 
standards of the man who was crucified. 

It is an interesting fact that the trend of the world’s 
thought through the last hundred years has swept hu- 
man minds into a more serious contemplation of Jesus 
of Nazareth. 

This has been the result of movements both inside 
the church and outside of it. Within the church we 
have had for a full century the scientific study of the 
Scriptures. The work of historical scholarship has 
been prodigious. No other book known to man has 
ever received such piercing and discriminating study 
as has been bestowed upon the Bible during the last 
two generations. This study has given us a changed 
conception of the Holy Scriptures. We now see as we 
did not see before that the Bible is the record of the 
evolving religious sense of man. The Old Testament 
does not stand on a level with the New. The Old 
Testament is preparatory. It is a preliminary stage in 
the religious development of the race. The Bible of 
the Christian Church is the New Testament, and the 
New Testament is a small collection of writings, the 
purpose of each one being to place before the heart 
the image of Jesus of Nazareth. That is what the 
New Testament says, “Behold, the Man!” Matthew 
says it, so does Mark, so does Luke, so does John. 
Through all of them one catches a divine voice saying, 


265 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


“This is my beloved Son, hear ye Him.” When we 
turn to the Epistles they speak the same message. Paul 
in all his letters knows nothing but Jesus Christ and 
Him crucified. What is true of Paul is true of all the 
others. After one has read the New Testament from 
beginning to end, he sees, on lifting up his eyes, no 
man but Jesus only. 

We are reading the Bible in a new way. We read 
it through Jesus. Every part of it now stands before 
His judgment seat. We are under no obligations to 
apologize for anything written in the Old Testament 
or to defend any of the Old Testament heroes. We 
are not embarrassed by crude ethics or by conceptions 
of God which the world has outgrown. We drop out 
the Mosaic sacrificial system and the Mosaic cos- 
mogony and the Imprecatory Psalms, and everything 
else which we do not need. We have learned that 
only one thing is essential and that is an understand- 
ing of the Man of Galilee and devotion to the prin- 
ciples He taught and lived. When we become weary 
over the doings of Hebrew kings, and confused over 
the words of Hebrew prophets, we hear a voice saying, 
“Behold the Man,” and looking at Him we become 
strong and glad again. 

Certainly the spirit of the Christian Church has 
changed amazingly within the last fifty years. There 
was a time when Christians in large numbers were 
wildly enthusiastic over questions of church polity. 
The number of such Christians is small today. <A gen- 
eration or two ago multitudes of church members 


266 


“BEHOLD, THE MAN!” 


placed the supreme emphasis on dogma. Doctrinal 
discussions and heresy trials and theological contro- 
versies troubled and embittered wide circles. Only a 
diminishing group any longer takes delight in such 
enterprises. ‘The interest of men lies elsewhere. How 
can we account for this? What has wrought the 
change? The Christian world has been revolutionized 
in its attitude and temper by having its eyes fixed on 
Jesus. “Behold, the Man!’ We behold Him, and 
our life is transformed by the renewing of our mind 
through a fresh vision of His glory. 

The scientific movement is the mightiest movement 
of our time. It sweeps like a resistless tide through 
all the thinking of the world. Its slogan is “Behold! 
Look! Observe! Keep your eyes on phenomena!” 
Phenomena are the things which appear. ‘They are 
the facts and events which report themselves to the 
eyes. Science counts all phenomena sacred. It is by 
the study of phenomena that we come to know what 
the universe is. By the long continued study of phe- 
nomena science has become convinced that the uni- 
verse 1s one, that it is governed by law, that it is a 
growing universe, and that there is an indwelling 
spirit. Life climbs, unfolds, evolves. Each stage is 
higher than the one which precedes it. From the pro- 
toplasm onward the way is upward. The animal is 
above the vegetable, and the human is above the ani- 
mal. Life reaches its climax in human personality. 
Personality is the highest form of life known. Upon 
personality we must therefore fix our eyes. It is the 


267 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


phenomenon which has most to tell us. By the study 
of personality we can hope for light on the meaning 
of the gigantic process of which human personality is 
the goal. It is a mistake to suppose that Science has 
degraded man. It has exalted him. It has given him 
a dignity he never had before. It has opened a vista 
of uncounted ages through which all the forces of 
nature are seen at work to produce this masterpiece 
known as man. Man is henceforth to be the supreme 
object of scientific study. Scientists will forever spe- 
cialize and various groups will devote their attention 
to lower forms of life, but it is incredible that any 
man after the scientific spirit has done in him its per- 
fect work, will be content to confine himself to beetles 
and bugs, insects and snakes, and pass by as insig- 
nificant the greatest of all phenomena—the personality 
of man. Science is leading us to ascribe a heightened 
value to human beings. 

When once in the realm of personality we are com- 
pelled to compare persons. One person differs from 
another person in glory. The whole human world 
lies before us as that world has developed through 
thousands of years, and in the vast multitude of per- 
sons which pass before the mind, there is one of ex- 
ceptional magnitude and richness, so many-sided and 
so beautiful that He becomes unique. He is the fair- 
est of ten thousand and the one altogether lovely. He 
is the holiest of the mighty and the mightiest of the 
holy. Nature holds Him up to us saying, “Behold, the 
Man! Here is the man I have been aiming at. This 


268 


“BEHOLD, THE MAN!” 


is the man whom [I have had in mind from the begin- 
ning. Observe His reasonableness, His sympathy, His 
love. Look at Him!’ 

And as we look, we can hear someone saying, “This 
is the kind of man you ought to be. This is the type of 
man you are intended to become.”” We can all hear 
that voice. When we stand before Jesus of Nazareth 
we know at once that He is the ideal. He is the kind 
of man we should like to be but which alas we are not. 
He is the man who haunts us in our dreams, and who 
goes on in front of us, saying, “Follow me!” 

We look at Him and He becomes to us more and 
more the revelation of the Power which lies behind 
the universe, the incarnation of the Eternal Spirit 
which animates and controls the worlds. Here at last 
we get authentic information in regard to the character 
and purpose of God. No lower revelation is satisfy- 
ing to us. God flashes through the inorganic world. 
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” as a poet long 
ago declared. ‘Through the thousand beauties of land 
and sea and sky, we get intimations of the nature of 
the Almighty, but after listening to all that the physi- 
cal universe has to say, the heart is hungry still. We 
want to know more than seas and stars can tell us, 
more than the animal world is able to disclose. We 
want to know God’s character, and that can be known 
only through a person. It is through human person- 
ality at its highest that the only satisfactory revela- 
tion of the heart of God can come. God is not like 
gold or silver or marble. He is unlike birds and fishes 


269 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


and creeping things. Only a person can express Him 
in His innermost essence and disposition. Nature 
puts her hand on our shoulders and pointing to Jesus, 
she says, “Behold, the Man!’ And when we fix our 
eyes on Him we hear Him saying, “He that hath seen 
me hath seen the Father.” We cannot better express 
who and what He is than by the words coined by a 
keen-eyed observer long ago, ‘He is the image of the 
invisible God.” Out of the cosmic forces this man 
has emerged. He is here.’ His attitude is friendly. 
He has a loving heart. He expresses the innermost 
essence of the universe. When we touch Him we 
come in contact with reality. To all who hunger / 
after God and who long to find the way which leads 
to Him, the church strengthened by the latest dis- 
coveries of Science, says, “Behold, the Man! He 
is thé way, theitruth and the lite,” 

“Behold the Man!’ The Man, not the King, or the 
General, or the Statesman, or the Scholar, or the Poet, 
or the Philosopher, or the Artist, or the Architect, or 
the Orator, or the Composer! Look at the Man! We. 
need all these others, but more than any one of them, 
and more than all of them together, we need the man. 
It is the full-statured man and not the clever specialist 
who will get us out of our tribulations and bring us 
to God. | : 

“Behold the Man!” His name is written above 
every name. Go to England and ask for the name 
of the world’s greatest man. England has produced 
a host of illustrious men. ‘The shining names are 


270 


“BEHOLD, THE MAN!” 


innumerable. But strange to say, when a Briton is 
asked to name the world’s greatest man, he does not 
give you the name of a Briton, he names Jesus of 
Nazareth. Charles Lamb expressed the feeling of all 
Britons when he said, “If Shakespeare should come 
into this room we should all rise to greet him, but if 
that Man should enter we should all kneel.” 

Go to Europe and ask those who know Europe best, 
to name the world’s greatest man. You will not get 
the name of a European, but the name of an Asiatic. 
Europe is covered with monuments erected in honor of 
a man born in Palestine. His name is above the name 
of every man ever born in Europe. 

Come to America and ask who is the greatest of all 
the men America has known, and you will not be given 
the name of Washington or Lincoln, of Webster or 
Calhoun, of Lowell or Longfellow, of any captain of 
industry or of any merchant prince. There is only one 
answer and that is Jesus of Nazareth. ‘The greatest 
man in England is not an Englishman, the greatest 
man in Europe is not a European, the greatest man in 
America is not.an American. The greatest man in 
every land is the man who was crucified by Pilate. In 
the twentieth century the nations of the West come 
forward pointing not to an Occidental but to an Ori- 
ental, and exclaiming “Behold, the Man!” 

“Behold, the Man!” is the cry of the heart which 
has found in Jesus the way to life. “He gives peace 
and power and joy to all who trust in Him. “To as 
_ many as receive Him to them He gives power to be- 


Pgh 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


come the sons of God.” He alone has the words of 
eternal life. In our social perplexities and political 
distresses, there is no one else to whom we can geo. 
There is no solution for our industrial problems except 
in Him. It is this type of man who alone can bring 
capital and labor together. It is this man alone who 
can settle our racial problems. If we ask who shall 
put an end to international strife and bring in a thou- 
sand years of peace, the answer is, ““Here’s the Man!” 
One who travels round the world, carefully observing 
the currents of life in many lands, comes home with 
the deepened conviction that without Christ there is 
no hope for the world. No other religion has any 
personality to present comparable with the person of 
Jesus Christ. No other faith has a leader to offer to 
men who has the faintest chance of winning and hold- 
ing the heart of the world. It is Christ or nobody. 
Without Christ we are lost. To any one who is famil- 
iar with the present world situation, the words of 
Peter come with thrilling and overwhelming force, 
“There is no other name under heaven, given among 
men, wherein we must be saved.”’ The experience of 
nineteen hundred years has made clear to an increasing 
multitude that “God is in Christ reconciling the world 
unto Himself.” No church can hope to endure except 
the church which exalts the Man of Galilee. No 
preacher preaches through the years with conquering 
power except the man who in all his preaching knows 
nothing but Jesus Christ the Man who was crucified 
and whom God raised from the dead. When death 


209 


“BEHOLD, THE MAN!” 


lifts the curtain between this world and the other, 
we shall behold this man in His glory. “Now are we 
children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what 
we shall be. We know that if He shall be manifested, 
we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him even as 
He is.”’ 


273 


“Che Goos Be babe Chosen” 


By Ropert FreEMAN, D.D., PASADENA PRESBYTERIAN 
CHURCH, PASADENA 


“Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver 
you in the time of your tribulation.” 
—JUDGES X-—14 


“TQ UT One Sermon to Preach” may mean but one 

opportunity to preach a sermon; or it may mean 
but one message in one’s mind to deliver an indefinite 
number of times, as in the case of that famous Japa- 
nese evangelist who has given the same discourse before 
thousands of congregations, and, naturally, now takes 
several hours in the delivery. If we mean but one op- 
portunity to deliver a sermon, then the character of 
its content will be determined by the occasion, the au- 
dience, and the environment. One would have to know 
whether the congregation filled a Salvation Army Hall 
or University Chapel, whether it was made up of old 
Saints, of fighting Marines, or of Girl Reserves. How- 
ever, if I may presume that I am to preach my one 
sermon only once; if I may also presume upon the 
sample cross section of humanity that we find in the 
average American Sunday morning congregation as 
my audience, assembling as it does all sorts and con- 
ditions of folk, running the gamut of age, health, 
social position, fortune, experience, and state of mind; 


274 


“THE GODS YE HAVE CHOSEN” 


and if I may further presume that my one sermon to 
be preached by me to that group is to be delivered 
today, (for, as the years have so changed my emphasis 
that some themes which once were all-absorbing have 
completely lost their interest, it is to be allowed that 
growth will in the future, too, mean outgrowth and 
change, and my one sermon at a later time would 
probably be a different one); then I should read for 
my Scripture lesson the story of the wise and foolish 
virgins, and should take as my text Judges 10:14: 
“Go and cry unto the Gods which ye have chosen, 
let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” 

These words of the Lord to vagrom, vacillating, 
chameleonic Israel are sure and inescapable. ‘Time 
will bring them to every mortal soul: “Go and cry 
unto the gods which ye have chosen.”’ With the gods 
of your choice ye shall have to do. Therefore, give 
thought to the picking of them. 

Character is not created in the crisis—it is only . 
exhibited. ‘He was makin’ himsel’ a’ the time’; we 
tread in Lockhart’s Sir Walter, “but he didna ken 
maybe what he was aboot till years had past.”” Moses | 


was not made in the Exodus, but in the backside of the ~~ 


desert. The years of strain in the White House did 
not produce Lincoln—they only discovered him. No 
man is a fool at fifty, or a sage, who has not been get- 
ting ready to make such revelation of himself. It is 
a big thing we ask of youth that it so acts and so 
chooses at fifteen and twenty as to leave itself with- 


275 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


out deep regrets at forty and sixty; but that is the 
demand. 


““Here’s tae ye, ma lad, as forrit ye stert 
Wi’ a licht i’ yer e’e, an’ a sang 1’ yer hert, 
Wi’ yer plans an yer po’ers! But tak it frae me: 
Be guid tae the auld man ye’re gaein’ tae be! 


“Ye’re makin’ the hoose whar the auld man’ll bide; 
Ye’re hingin’ him picters that time winna hide; 
Ye’re chisellin’ the wa’s o’ his lang memory: 
Be kind tae the auld man ye’re gaein’ tae be! 


“The airts that ye tak are no for yersel’, 

Ye are willin’, nae doot, tae mak bed in hell— 
That’s a’ very weel, if a gowk canna see 

The richts o’ the auld man he’s gaein’ tae be. 
“There ay will be short-sichted bodies, ye ken, 
What live for the day, an’ ca’ themsel’s men; 
But they’re cowardly callants wha ne’er stop a wee 
Tae think o’ the auld man they’re gaein’ tae be. 
““Sae, here’s tae ye, lad, God make ye sic chiel 

As can send the hale low-ordered pack to the de’il, 
An’ answer them a’ wi’ fire 1’ yer e’e, 

‘Ma fecht’s for the peace o’ an auld man tae be!’” 


You can’t get ready after you are hit. The virgins 
could not buy oil at midnight—they could only burn it. 

What is preaching for? It is to prepare us for 
emergencies. It is a laying by for a rainy day. It is 
an accumulating of honey against the winter. It is 
the stowing on board such anchors as we may cast out 


276 


“THE GODS YE HAVE CHOSEN” 


of the stern when we are driven before the Euroclydon 
and while we are wishing for the day. Preaching 
ought to supply me with four things as I need them: 
zest, zeal, courage, and peace. Preaching ought to 
make me catch my breath; ought to set me up; ought 
to make me take a new hold on life, find a new love 
of it, a new joy in it; ought to stir in me a new passion 
of desire as I behold the portraits of the good and the 
great, a new confidence making me exclaim as each 
appears, “That, that, by the grace of God, may be I.” 
It ought to make life worth living, whatever the indi- 
_ vidual assignment. That is zest. 

Preaching ought also to awaken in me zeal, fervor, 
make me believe in my own influence and, further, 
make me eager to exert it. Some of us know a little 
of the Argentine ant and of the difficulty of controlling 
it. A colony will grow at the rate of three hundred 
thousand a month. The only way effectually to get 
rid of the pest is to put enticing food slightly poisoned 
on the beaten path of the workers. These gorge them- 
selves and hurry off to the colony where, under the 
direction of nurses, they regurgitate and thus supply 
food for the babes and the queens. The babes die at 
once, the others gradually. We are all in the business 
of carrying food for the next generation, be it pure or 
poisoned; and the aim of preaching is to inspire us to 
be purveyors of that which is good. There came to 
the First Division of the Army in 1917 a big Y. M. C. 
A. secretary named Ira D. Shaw, too big in fact, to 
be fitted with any stock army uniform. At the mo- 


277 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


ment, the best field of service seemed to be with the 
battalion then under Major Theodore Roosevelt at 
Marson; so I introduced the two on the main street 
of the little French town. The major in his jerky, 
nervous way made quick appraisal of Shaw, springily 
rising on his tip-toes as he spoke. 

“You look as if you must have played football 
somewhere.” 

Shaw phlegmatically conceded that he had played 
a bit on the gridiron in his day. 

“Where did you play football?” 

“At Columbia University.” 

“You are not that Shaw! Why man, I remember 
how Harold Wiecks used to make his gains over your 
back.” 

“Yes, my back’s all scarred up with Harold Wiecks’ 
cleats.” 

All of us who for the moment are in the line, are 
there to bend our backs and take our scars that the 
backfield may come through and carry the ball a little 
nearer to the goal. 

Third, preaching is to inspire to courage, to enable 
us, if not to enjoy unpleasant places, at least to carry 
through them without shame to ourselves or increasing 
misery to others. R. L. S. who, in a letter to Dr. 
Alexander Whyte, confesses to being partly the obliged 
admirer of the Shorter Catechism and partly its con- 
scientious enemy, in the same breath acknowledges to 
the little book much of philosophy and more of style. 
Something of the religious training typified by that 


278 


“THE GODS YE HAVE CHOSEN” 


Presbyterian handbook of Calvinistic faith entered 
into his fiber and enabled him with courage and honor 
to bear his burden. ‘For fourteen years I have not 
had a day’s real health; I have wakened sick and gone 
to bed weary; and I have done my work unflinchingly. 
I have written in bed, and written out of it, written 
in hemorrhages, written in sickness, written torn by 
coughing, written when my head swam for weakness; 
and for so long, it seems to me I have won my wager 
and recovered my glove. I am better now, have been, 
rightly speaking, since first I came to the Pacific; 
and still, few are the days when I am not in some 
physical distress. And still the battle goes on—ill or 
well, is a trifle; so as it goes. I was made for a con- 
test, and the Powers have so willed that my battle- 
field should be this dingy, inglorious one of the bed 
and the physic bottle.’ Preaching ought to do that 
for us, ought to make us game to endure without 
whining, give us courage to stand unwhimpering when 
our share befalls of the ills of men. “We are in a des- — 
perate state,’ wrote Captain Scott to Sir James M. / 
Barrie just before his end in the Antarctic field of ice, 
“feet frozen, no fuel, and a long way from food; but 
it would do your heart good to be in our tent to hear 
our songs and our cheery conversation.” If preaching 
has any value it ought to provide us with the courage 
needed to endure and thus to strive. 

Preaching ought to minister peace, peace in the 
face of great trials and irreparable losses, the art of 
throwing off care, of leaving the past in the lap of the 


279 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


Eternal and of fearing no evil for the future. Have 
you thought of the sweet ministry of that one word 
“peace,” with its long soft vowel and its lasting sibi- 
lant whispering down the corridors of the Soul, and 
making our worship to be divine service if only by its 
final benediction, “‘Peace I leave with thee, my peace 
give I unto thee’? 

These things preaching ought continually to be 
bringing to us: zest and zeal and courage and peace. 
But these must be brought before we need them. “At 
such an hour as ye think not,” the crisis comes. Youth 
cannot be sure it will not require its defences till age 
arrives. Bramwell Booth in his “Echoes and Memo- 
ries” gives a stirring glimpse of his father the general 
at his mother’s grave emulating Abraham who “stood 
up from before his dead and spake.” What back- 
cround such address reveals! “I have never turned 
from her these forty years for any journeyings on my 
mission of mercy, but I longed to get back, and have 
counted the weeks, days, and hours which should take 
me again to her side. When she has gone away from 
me it has been just the same. And now she has gone 
away for the last time. What then is there left for 
me to do? Not to count the weeks, the days, and the 
hours which shall bring me again into her sweet com- 
pany, seeing that I know not what will be on the mor- 
row, nor what an hour may bring forth. My work 
plainly is to fill up the weeks, the days, the hours, and 
cheer my poor heart as I go along with the thought 
that when I have served my Christ and my generation 


280 


“THE GODS YE HAVE CHOSEN” 


according to the will of God, which I vow this after- 
noon I will to the last drop of my blood—then I trust 
that she will bid me welcome to the skies as He bade 
her.” William Booth had fortified his soul against 
such an emergency, he had chosen his gods and he 
found them not to fail. But the catastrophe might 
have come when his children were but infants, when 
his great enterprise was still nebulous, when he him- 
self was an outcast maligned and persecuted even by 
the Protestant Church upon which he had thought to 
count. Other men have lost their wives at the very 
dawn of marital felicity, other men have been smitten 
ere the cheers of college commencement have died 
down. There is no period over which we may with 
impunity neglect to prepare ourselves for life’s search- 
ing tests. 

How then shall we erect our fortifications? We 
shall need to have some sort of philosophy of life. 
“What is philosophizing?” asks Epictetus in one of 
his conversations. “Is it not a preparation against 
events which may happen?’ It certainly is profitable 
to search out for ourselves the various theistic argu- 
ments and Christian apologetics that we may always 
have a reason for the faith that is in us, that we may 
love the Lord with all our ménd as well as with all 
our soul. Hagel declares that the nation that has a 
false idea of God has bad laws, bad institutions, bad 
government. That truth begins with the individual. 
But our conception of God must be determined when 
our souls are at ease., That semi-rebuke of the dying 


281 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


highlander in the fields of Flanders was warranted 
when the padre lifted his head and said “Times like 
these make us think seriously.” ‘Ay,’ murmured the 
Kultie, ‘but I hae done ma thinkin’ lang syne.” You 
can’t get ready after you are hit. You can cry in the 
times of your tribulation only to the gods whom you 
have chosen in the days of your peace. However, 
relatively few of us are really philosophical, few have 
the theological bent; and even those who have the 
philosophic mind are not consistently ruled by it, in- 
deed are often found going wholly counter to it. 
Habits rule in a wider empire than thoughts. Pro- 
fessor James insisted that, with the exception of only 
one-thousandth part of our activity, all we did was 
automatic and habitual; and therefore urged that we 
make our nervous system our ally instead of our 
enemy. Habit is repetition become involuntary, to the 
point where attention and fatigue are at the minimum, 
as in riding a bicycle or playing the piano. That is 
the hope of religion in the life of the individual. I 
find myself puzzling to discover certain fixed phrases 
to use in family prayers which phrases may very well 
stick in the minds of my children forever with happy 
and devout connotation, indeed be the word of God to 
them in some day of trial. That was the effect of the 
daily prayer of Ian Maclaren’s old schoolmaster “Bull- 
dog’ in the Muirtown Academy. His lads went to 
the ends of the earth, but wherever two or three met up 
with each other, in the wheat farms of the north-west, 
on the sheep ranges of Australia, in the diamond fields 


282 


“THE GODS YE HAVE CHOSEN” 


of South Africa, or in the service in Egypt or in India, 
they would soon be recalling Bulldog, recounting with 
pride their thrashings at his hand, and then end by 
piecing together the old prayer: “Lord deliver the 
laddies before thee from lying, from cheating, from 
cowardice which are as the devil. Put Thy fear in 
their hearts, and common sense in their heads, and help 
them be honest men all the days of their lives!” That 
prayer had been chiselled into their memories by con- 
stant repetition, and perhaps had a greater religious 
value for them than anything else. 

That is the value of the simple exercises of religion, 
prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, the com- 
munion; not that they work any magic, save only that 
same magic by which evil communications corrupt 
good manners, the same magic counted upon when we 
plan that our children shall hear good music, see good 
pictures, listen to choice language, the magic conse- 
quent upon exposure. By what right shall I omit those 
simple exercises from my family life when I know it 
will probably mean the cheating of my children of 
those sources of help they may need any time and are 
sure to need some time? However their ideas of the 
Lord Jesus may change in changing environment, I 
have no fear for them if they have been steadily ex- 
posed to His face and character and work and will 
through the days when the sun was bright. There’s a 
story of Ty Cobb that illustrates what I mean. The 
Tigers were playing in New York and were so far 
ahead that the game had become uninteresting to the 


283 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


observers. Near the end of the last inning Bill Dono- 
van, coaching on first, said to Cobb, ‘Step off the sack, 
and let them tag you out, Ty.” Cobb seemed to fall in 
with the idea; and of course like a flash, the ball was 
shot from the alert pitcher to first base. Right then the 
fans saw a piece of the prettiest baseball they had ever 
witnessed. Cobb hesitated perhaps a fraction of a sec- 
ond, and then was off. The enemy closed in about him, 
the short-stop and the out-field reducing his chances of 
escape, while he zig-zagged and feinted. Then some 
one threw a little wild. Cobb dived, and in a cloud of 
dust slid for the base; and, when the ball arrived at 
second, the hero of Detroit was dusting himself off. 
After the game Donovan enquired: ‘Why didn’t you 
let them tag you? You said you were going to.” 
“Well I really meant to,” answered Ty, “but when I 
saw that ball coming over, I just couldn’t stand still. 
Something rose up inside of me that said if those 
fellows got me they would sure have to fight for me.” 
I know what happened, don’t you? All Cobb’s past 
experience at stealing bases, at outwitting the enemy, 
all his habit of winning refused to be downed by the 
whim of a moment. He had cut his baseball grooves, 
and a casual desire was not enough to get him out. 
The habit of the years determined his conduct in the 
crisis. That’s what religious habits will do, determine 
a mode of thinking and acting in normal situations 
which will be our involuntary mode in abnormal sit- 
uations. Or let me illustrate it another way. One 
evening a few months ago, the Los Angeles Philhar- 


284 


“THE GODS YE HAVE CHOSEN” 


monic Orchestra played without a leader. On the 
empty conductor’s stand lay an open score and a slim 
baton. The musicians played with rare skill and feel- 
ing Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and the Andante 
Cantabile from Tschaikowsky. The body of their 
leader, Walter Henry Rothwell, lay below, his casket 
banked with flowers. He had trained them through 
the years and now that he was gone, they could not 
fail. 

You cannot borrow much in the crisis. Character 
can’t be shared. Faith can’t be shared. Since, there- 
fore, some day faith will be indispensable, seek it now. 
Since some day you shall have to cry on the gods of 
your choice, seek now One who will not fail, acquaint 
now thyself with Him and be at peace. 


“There is a tide in the affairs of men 

Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune; 
Omitted, all the voyage of their life 

Is bound in shallows and in miseries. 

On such a full sea are we now afloat, 

And we must take the current when it serves 
Or lose our ventures.” 


285 


Aware of the Eternal 


By Wiiiram L. Stipcer, D.D., LiInwoop BOULEVARD 
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, KANSAS CITY 


“Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.” 
—ACTS XVII— 23 
AUL was aware of the immortals, and he knew 
that the Athenians were. 

It is good for human beings to have a seismographic 
awareness of God. 

Paul knew that the men of Athens lived always as 
in sight of the immortal gods. 

If I had but one sermon to preach, it ve be to 
trumpet the great tidings into the hearts of humanity 
that we are living, whether we know it or not, every 
year, every day, every minute,—within sight of the 
Immortals. That thought, once reigning in the mind 
and heart of humanity, would remake the world in all 
of its human relationships. 

Two of Edwin Markham’s poems will give us a run- 
ning start into this thought. These two poems will 
give us a setting, a background, a theme through which 
we may talk and think about the business of acting, 
living, breathing, dreaming, and achieving, as if we 
were constantly and everlastingly looked down upon 
by the Immortals. 

286 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


When a man once gets this idea into his soul, he can 
no longer do any petty thing, and mean or dishonor- 
able thing; he can never again indulge in petty talking 
or thinking or living, personally or socially. 

No human can sin, nor wrong another; no human 
can do an ignoble thing if he honestly believes that 
he is living in sight of the Immortals. 

The first Edwin Markham poem which I want to 
use as a setting for this thought is called “A Work- 
man to the Gods,” and it reads as follows: 

“Once Phidias stood, with hammer in his hand, 
Carving Athene from the breathing stone, 
Tracing with love the winding of a hair, 

A single hair upon her head, whereon 

A youth of Athens cried, ‘O Phidias, 

Why do you dally on a hidden hair? 

When she is lifted to the lofty front 

Of the Parthenon, no human eye will see.” 

And Phidias thundered on him: ‘Silence, slave, 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will!” 


Let me add to this poetic setting several lines from 
another Markham poem. I do this in order to link 
two extremes of life, a sculptor and a cobbler. J want 
to link Heaven and earth; star-dust and dandelions, 
in this setting. I hence turn to Markham’s poem, 
“How the Great Guest Came.” It is the story of 
Conrad the Cobbler of Ingleburg. 

He had his dream that Christ was coming “his guest 
to be.” In this sermon I am not interested in the main 
theme of this second poem, but in the few lines that 
describe the kind of a cobbler Conrad was. He too, 


287 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


like the great Phidias, worked as in sight of the Im- 
mortals all the while: 


“Doubled all day on his busy bench, 

Hard at his cobbling for master and hench, 

He pounded away at a brisk tat-tat, 

Shearing and shaping with pull and pat, 

Hide well hammered and pegs sent home, 

Till the shoe was fit for the Prince of Rome. 
And he sang as the threads went to and fro: 
“Whether ’tis hidden or whether it show, 

Let the work be sound, for the Lord will know!’ ” 


Let us link these last two lines of the cobbler up 
with the last two of the great Greek sculptor Phidias: 


‘Silence, slave; 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will!” 


Here you have the thought of my sermon in poetry. 

The Greeks lived always, as in sight of the Immor- 
tals. No wonder they produced a group of philoso- 
phers, a group of sculptors, a group of poets and dram- 
atists which gave this period in human history the 
title of ““The Golden Age.’”’ Nor has any period in 
human history produced such culture, such intellec- 
tual integrity, such masterpieces of beauty and won- 
der, as this age. 

Any race of people which works as in the sight of 
the Immortals is bound to grow great in mind and 
heart. An age which worships the Almighty shall 
grow great, but an age which worships the Almighty 
Dollar shall grow small in its soul. That is the danger 
of this day. We are living too much in this age and 


288 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


not enough in the ages. As Harold Begbie says: “It 
is an age of the degradation of love; an age which is 
talking nonsense on the edge of an abyss.” And as 
Dr. Fitch says: “It is an age of frantic immediacy.” 

One would surely want to do his supreme best if he 
felt that the Immortals were looking down upon his 
workmanship, if he knew that the Eternal God was 
an eye-witness to his deeds. The Greeks felt that 
way. They lived as people who were conscious of the 
Eternal and of the Immortals. 

Paul knew the Greeks. In his Mars Hill oration he 
appealed to their consciousness of the gods and of “‘the 
unknown God,” a statue which he had seen on his way 
up from the city to Mars Hill. In fact, there were 
numerous statues to “The Unknown God” in Athens. 
A teacher in Athens told me that the reason why the 
Greeks erected these statues to “The Unknown God” 
was because they already had erected statues to all of 
the known gods, and to be sure that they had honored 
all of the gods, even the god whom they did not know, 
they were accustomed to carve memorials and statues 
of recognition to “The Unknown God.” 

This custom is a striking illustration of this theme, 
that the Greeks worked always, as within sight of the 
Immortals, whether they were known or unknown 
gods. And this consciousness strangely influenced 
their thought and work. 

And since the Greek nation gave us during this pe- 
riod the Golden Age of sculpture and literature, art 
and statesmanship, we have a right to assume that the 


289 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


gift of this genius was due to a consciousness of the 
fact that they were living and working for Eternity. 

Paul was appealing to this consciousness which the 
Greeks had, when he made that famous Mars Hill 
address. It was a masterpiece, as much so as his im- 
mortal speech before King Agrippa. I like to read 
that story over and over. 

The Greeks had in their sculpture what Mr. Lorado 
Taft says that American sculpture will have to find 
again in order to command the respect of its gen- 
eration. Indeed, he says that the whole world of art 
will have to recover this in order to get back to its old 
place of prestige, power, prophecy and poetry. “It 
will have to get the hint of Eternity back into its 
work.” 

An Athenian story tells me that when Phidias, 
the greatest sculptor who ever lived, was in Athens 
doing his work on the Parthenon, that the Athenians 
were slow in giving their money to complete the work 
of the master. They were in those days like they are 
now, slow to give, and plenteous in criticism. 

Phidias became impatient with them, and once said 
to an Athenian millionaire who felt that the whole 
matter was of little moment: ‘These temples will 
stand long after we have been forgotten.” 

The great sculptor was a little more polite with the 
Athenian millionaire, but his words carried the same 
condemnation which he thundered at the Athenian fop 
who chided him about his care in carving the hidden 
hair of Athene: 


290 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


“And Phidias thundered on him: ‘Silence, slave, 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will!’ ” 


I 


Great Sculptors and Painters Have Worked as in 
Sight of the Immortals. 


Michael Angelo’s “David” in Florence, Italy, lifts 
one out of time and makes one feel eternal. One can- 
not stand before this masterpiece, this colossal dream, 
vibrating with living readity even though carved out 
of white marble; standing as it does straight as a tree, 
clean and spiritual, that one does not feel a sense of 
Immortality. 

Nor can one stand in St. Peter’s looking upon An- 
gelo’s “Moses” with its great beard and brows, its 
piercing eyes; those eyes though carved out of mar- 
ble, shooting Jovian thunderbolts; with the tablets of 
stone on his knees as if recording the Ten Command- 
ments, without feeling an awareness of everlasting 
things and thoughts. 

Nor can a man step into the Louvre in Paris and 
look down that long aisle where stands the Venus de 
Milo, that exquisite piece of living, vibrant woman- 
hood, pulsing and ready to leap with life and laughter 
and love, that he does not feel a sense of immortal 
beauty and maternity. 

The Victory of Samothrace does the same thing to 
one’s soul. It seems to leap with life even though 
carved from cold and breathless marble in the long, 
long ago. 

291 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


The Mona Lisa gives one the same feeling, a Corot’s 
“Angelus,” a sweeping, singing story of Creation such 
as Angelo has achieved on the walls of the Sistine 
Chapel, a Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,’’—these 
all lift one out of time into the Eternal. 

“The Hint of Eternity” is in these great master- 
pieces. One feels it there. And one does not feel thus 
before a great work of art if the artist himself did 
not feel thus in creating that work. If the artist felt 
that he was working in sight of the Immortals, the 
one who looks upon that work of art will feel it, 
though centuries have intervened. It 1s the atmos- 
phere of Eternal things which hovers about such a 
masterpiece of labor and love. 


“Silence, slave! 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will!” 


II 


Great Writers have had this Consciousness of the 
Eternal Presence as They Wrote Immortal Lines. 


One test of a great poem is this, that it must take a 
man out of Time and make him feel that there is an 
Eternal. If a poem does that for me I am sure it is a 
great poem. 

When I first read Edwin Markham’s poem about 
Edgar Allen Poe, called “Israfel,’? some of its lines 
seemed to lift me up until I felt the pulse-beat of the 
Eternal: 

292 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


“He lookt on cities in their crumbling hours, 
Where Death obscurely mumbles out his rune, 

Hoary, remote, alone, where time-torn towers 
Hang spectral in the moon. 


“He walked our streets as on a lonely strand; 
His country was not here—it was afar, 
Not here his home, not here his motherland, 

But in some statelier star. 


“Life was his exile, Earth his alien shore, 
And these were foreign faces that he passed; 
For he had other language, other lore, 
And he must home at last.” 


The day that Mr. Markham sent me a copy of this 
immortal poem I was lifted out of Time and made to 
feel Eternal. That poem met my test of a great poem. 
When I was through its reading, I knew that there 
was an Eternal and I felt the Cosmic Consciousness. 
I felt my At-one-ness; His At-one-ment. It was an 
experience like a conversion. 

Why was this? It was because the poet who wrote 
it was working as in sight of the Immortals. 

Thomas Carlyle called the writers of the French 
Revolution “wistful listeners to the Eternal Voices 
of Prophecy.” 

Dante is said with his Divine Comedy, to have 
“broken the silence of ten centuries.” 

Lincoln, I can prove, was aware of the Immortals, 
when he was delivering his famous Gettysburg ad- 
dress. Here is the proof. 

Dr. Barton, in his two volumes on the life of Lin- 


293 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


coln, has investigated with painstaking care the whole 
background of the writing and the delivery of this 
famous address. He has documents on every copy of 
that address. He has compared every one of the ex- 
tant copies, word for word, sentence for sentence. He 
shows us that in all of the drafts of this address writ- 
ten before the actual day of its delivery, the phrase 
“Under God” was not yet born. 

But, under the stress of that great occasion, as Lin- 
coln stood on his feet in that battlefield, this great 
man suddenly felt the presence of the Eternal, the 
consciousness of his Oneness with God, and he extem- 
porized that phrase which is now an immortal part of 
his address: “That this nation, wzder God, shall have 
a new birth of freedom.” 

None of the advance copies of this speech had the 
phrase “Under God” in them, but all of the reporters’ 
copies which were taken down in shorthand had the 
phrase “‘under God” in the address. Dr. Barton says: 

“Not many of the changes in revision were impor- 
tant, but one calls for comment. It is the insertion of 
the words ‘Under God.” This change occurred, I am 
confident, on the platform. My judgment is, that 
under the solemn spell of the occasion, he determined 
to use these words, for they are in the Hale report, 
and the Associated Press report, and Lincoln himself 
included these words in the revision of the address 
subsequent to its delivery.” 

This is a thought to stir the fountains of the soul; 
that Abraham Lincoln, our great Immortal, on that 


294 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


platform, on that tremendous occasion suddenly be- 
came conscious that he too was speaking in sight of 
the Immortal because of a sensitive seismographic 
awareness of the Eternal, and he inserted that great 
phrase: “Under God.” 

The great writers have known the everlasting truth 
that Phidias himself thundered: 


‘Silence, slave, 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will!” 


III 


The Old Prophets Lived as Within Sight of the 


Immortals Always. 


Isaiah lived and talked, conscious that God was 
~ looking on. No honest man can read the Book of 
Isaiah and not feel the consciousness of the Eternal 
lingering in every line of it. 

One cannot read the Bible thoughtfully and sin- 
cerely, in holy quiet, in a place of meditation, that 
he does not feel the Eternal. This is the greatest proof 
of its Divine Origin and inspiration. Its every book 
brings Ged to man. 

Its single lines innumerable make one feel the pres- 
ence of the Eternal. Read that great old prophecy of 
the coming of the Messiah, and catch its hint of the 
Eternal. Let this gigantic book lift you out of Life 
and make you feel Eternal. 

Elijah knew that God was there all the time. He 
was taking no chances in his battles with the followers 


295 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


of Baal. He had an awareness of his God which is 
better than proof. He had a confidence in his God 
which was baffling and bewildering to his enemies be- 
cause he was living in the presence of that God all 
his days. 

A man becomes all-powerful when he lives every 
day as in God’s presence. His work becomes great 
work. 

John the Baptist knew that Christ was looking on 
and he knew that Christ was the Son of God; that He 
was Immortal; that Christ was a man the latchet of 
whose shoes, he, John, was not worthy to unloose. 
He had seen the Dove descending and resting over 
the head of Jesus when he baptized Jesus in the beau- 
tiful Jordan. He had heard that voice. He KNEW. 
He knew that he was preaching and prophesying as in 
the very sight of the Eternal God which gave him 
prophetic fire and power. 

One of the great spiritual treats of life is to read 
after these men of the prophetic days with the idea of 
this sermon in heart; reading as in the presence of men 
who in turn were aware that they lived and moved and 
had their being in the presence of the Eternal God. 
We absorb some of that consciousness of God by 
reading after them. They take us out of Time and 
make us feel Eternal! 

Jesus! You knew that you worked and taught and 
lived in the sight of God. That truth throbs in your 
every living line and pulsing precept! That con- 
sciousness beats its way out of every deed and every 


296 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


prayer and every lovely living word you spoke to 
lonely people. You knew! You knew! You knew 
that God was there all the time! 

That was the reason why you were so confident 
that you could cure blind eyes, deaf ears, leprous bod- 
ies. [hat was the reason why you faced loneliness 
and homelessness, the Garden of Gethsemane, and 
Calvary, with so much confidence. It was because you 
knew that your Father was there all the time. 

That was why you looked up, on the cruel cross of 
Calvary, and cried out: “Father, forgive them, they 
know not what they do!” You knew all the time 
that God was there! You were living and dying as 
in the sight of that Father all the time. 

I challenge any child or man or woman to read the 
New Testament through and not feel that he is living 
in God’s presence. No wonder General Lew Wallace, 
in accepting Ingersoll’s challenge, became converted to 
the Divinity of Christ before he was through writing 
that great novel about Christ which we call “Ben 
Hur.” Lew Wallace soon realized that he was in the 
presence of one of the Immortals before he was through 
that story. No man can honestly and sincerely study 
Christ’s life that he does not soon know that he is in 
the presence of the Eternal. 

From Moses to Jesus these men, too, thundered into 
human souls the truth that Phidias knew: 


“Silence slave! 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will!” 


297 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


IV 


It Does Something to the Soul to Live as Within 
S¢ght of the Immortals. 


Spiritualism ought to make men holy. Whether it 
does or not, I do not know. JI doubt it. They all 
seem to be more concerned with protoplasm, protoplas- 
mic plates and photographs; knocking on tables, and 
harsh guttural voices, than any spiritual matter. 

“By their fruits ye shall know them,” ought to be 
the test put to Spiritualism, and if that test is put, I 
fear that Spiritualism would fail today. 

Any child works better if it works under the con- 
sciousness of the presence and sympathy of a parent. 
To me, one of the most exhilarating experiences that 
a public speaker has, is the High School Commence- 
ment address which he makes. I like them better than 
College Commencements, Chautauqua, Lyceum, or 
Noonday Lunch Club speeches, because there is a 
beautiful consciousness in the hearts of the graduates 
of the presence of father and mother on that night. 
Awkward boys dressed in black, sweet girls dressed 
in white, awkward addresses, tremblings, flowers in 
one’s hands, shortness of breath; thrilled, frightened, 
but loved and loving. Parents in front with misty 
eyes, beating hearts, and lumps in their throats,—all 
beautiful with the presence of loved ones; all done as 
in the presence of those who care greatly. 

What boy has not had the experience of playing 
ball or football, and being whispered to, as he bends 


298 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


over to receive his signals: ‘Your Dad’s here watch- ~ 
ing you!” Lord God Almighty! Would a stone 
wall stop your lithe young body when you know that 
your Dad is there looking on? It would not, much 
less a few human boys and bodies. I know. I have 
been told that magic news: “Your Father’s watching 
the game!” 

It is so with school work, oratorical contests, de- 
bates, and human life. When a child knows that 
father and mother are looking on with love and con- 
fidence and sympathy, there is no greater incentive 
to heroic work on earth or the stars than that. That 
is the incentive supreme! 

We are a superstitious set of human beings. About 
two thirds of the peoples of the earth are conscious 
all the time of the eyes of the dead. Ibanez has writ- 
ten a book called “The Dead Command.” It is in- 
tended to prove that the dead influence our lives more 
than the living. It is an ingenious book. 

One day in Paris as we started for Versailles in a 
great bus, we were halted. A funeral was passing by. 
All traffic stopped. I shall never forget the picture 
of a Paris gendarme standing at salute while that fu- 
neral procession passed by. 

I stood one day in front of the Cenotaph in Lon- 
don, that stark, naked statue in honor of the Unknown 
Dead. I watched a hundred busses pass by, and 
ninety-nine out of every hundred people aboard those 
busses lifted their hats as they passed that Cenotaph. 
I never look upon it that the tears do not fill my eyes. 


299 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


I too have lifted my hat and dropped my tears to 
“The Unknown Dead.” The British have carved on 
this Cenotaph: “IN MEMORY OF OUR GLORI- 
OUS DEAD.” I have read a hundred cards, tied to 
bouquets of flowers, on that Cenotaph: ‘“To Daddy,” 
“To My Darling Boy,” “To Brother Bill,” “To our 
Son,’—cards and faded flowers, flowers from the 
homes of the rich, fresh every morning; bouquets of 
wild flowers put there by children’s hands,—God, who 
could keep back the tears! I always weep when I 
stand on that spot. I am aware that I am in the sym- 
bolic presence of the Immortals! 

Our great ship, the Sphinx, was passing through 
the Straits of Messina. I wanted to look upon those 
glorious heights of Gallipoli which the British and 
Australians stormed and consecrated forever with their 
blood. I wondered just where we were, when sud- 
denly the ship stopped. The French officers on that 
ship stood rigidly at attention, with the kind of a sa- 
lute that only French officers can give. They gave 
it in honor of the dead British soldiers. It was a mag- 
nificerit gesture which shall live forever in my mem- 
ory. The memory of that night’s blood-red sunset 
which glorified the battlefield of Gallipoli shall not 
live any longer than the memory of that silent ship 
and the salute of those French officers one July eve- 
ning as we passed through the Straits of Messina. 

No man can sin if he knows that he sins in the pres- 
ence of the Immortals, those we have loved and lost 


300 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


awhile, those who are crowned of God in God’s eter- 
nal days and God’s eternal ways. 

No man can do a little deed when he might be 
doing a big thing if he gets this truth into his soul, that 
the deed he does this day is done in sight of the Im- 
mortals. No man can be stingy in his living and in 
his giving if he understands the truth of this sermon 
that he is living and that he is giving in sight of the 
Immortals. No man can be petty in his social and 
economic relationships with his own, with his fellow- 
men or with his God, if he realizes that he is living in 
the presence of the Immortals. No man can do a 
sneaking thing in business, if he knows that all of his 
personal life, his business life, is lived in the sight of 
the Immortals! 

To me it is a tremendous thing to think that God 
looked on at the birth hour of Jesus; that He sent His 
angelic hosts to be there. But it is even a more thrill- 
ing thing that God looked on at my re-birth in Him; 
that God is there in that holy hour when I am re-born 
and when you are re-born in Him. He is there! He 
was there! He will be there! That is glorious! That 
is truth! 

To me it is glorious that God was present at the 
baptism of Jesus and at the consecration of the Christ 
to His holy task of living and loving and lifting: 
“And I if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” 

But it is even a more glorious thing to know that 
God is present whenever we too consecrate our lives, 
our talents, our powers, and our money, to Him. 


301 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


To me it is a glorious thing that God as well as 
Satan was present at the Hill of Temptation, that 
when Jesus was tempted of Satan to accept the powers 
of materialism, an Earthly Kingdom, a selfish King- 
ship, God was there also, and Jesus triumphed. 

But it is even a more beautiful thing for me to know 
that God is present when I too, am tempted. He is 
present as well as the Powers of Evil, to make me 
know that the angels are on my side if J call them. 

To me it is a thrilling thing that God was present 
at Calvary when Jesus died; that God looked on; and 
that Jesus was aware of His being there; and that 
God gave Him strength and poise; and that dying was 
easy when God the Father was present. 

But it is even more comforting to me to know that 
God will be present at my Calvary; at my dying; at 
my suffering; in my loneliness, if I wish Him there. 

To me it is a thrilling thought that God was present 
and looking on at the Resurrection Dawning; and 
that Jesus knew He was there; and that Jesus felt 
His power pulling and tugging at him to waken, to 
arise, and in the words of William Allen White, “take 
up the journey to the stars;’’ and that Jesus heard 
His voice and answered. 

But it is even a more awakening thought to me that 
God will be present at my resurrection, at my awaken- 
ing, if I am living in the consciousness of the Eternal 
always and all days. 

So shall we mere human beings know to say, when 
some lesser soul bids us stoop to smaller things than 


202 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


our dearest dreams would challenge us to; so shall we 
know to say, when our bodies pull and tug at our souls 
to stoop to mud and scum; so shall we know to say, 
when temptation hours come; so shall we know to 
thunder like Phidias, when lesser men laugh at our 
dreams, at our intellectual integrity, at our search for 
truth: | 


“Silence, slave, 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will!” 


And in our relationships with spiritual things, so 
shall we learn to sing in our everlasting souls the song 
of Conrad the Cobbler: 


‘Whether ’tis hidden or whether it show, 
Let the work be sound, for the Lord will know!” 


Let us live as in the presence, not only of the Im- 
mortals, but of the Immortal God. Let us live as Paul 
knew the Athenians lived, when he cried out to them 
on Mars Hill: 

“He whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I 
unto you!” 

It was a crude thing that the first Leland Stanford 
Chapel had in the center of its great dome was that 
material representation of the eye of God. But it 
was there, in the old chapel which was destroyed by 
the earthquake. This eye was never replaced in the 
new chapel, and we are glad that it was not, for it was 
an architectural monstrosity. 

But as a symbol, it is an everlasting truth which 
bids us mere human beings to rise and take up our 


OOO 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


journey to the stars; that God does look down upon 
us; that God does live among us and with us; that 
God does walk by our sides just as He walked by the 
disciples on the Emmaeus Road; that we do feel 
strange stirrings within our hearts and strange burn- 
ings; for are we not conscious that we live and move 
and have our very being, we Greeks of God, within 
sight of the Immortals and the Immortal? 


“Silence, slave, 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will!” 


“The Fool in Christ”—Immanuel Quint, of Haupt- 
mann’s great book, lived so constantly and so con- 
sciously in the “‘Presence’’ that he finally came to think 
that he was Christ. It is a strange tale, but the very 
thought that Christ was looking on, made him so 
aware of Christ that he wanted to live every minute 
as in Christ’s Path of Bleeding Feet. 

It is a modern Imitation of Christ which it thrills 
the devout soul to read. Immanuel Quint so loved 
Christ and so lived in His presence, that the author 
says: “He fell asleep, when he slept, over the foot- 
steps of Jesus.” The presence of Christ so completely 
absorbed him that “a love for humanity gnawed at 
him; the presence of Christ so permeated his very 
being that he himself had followers in every walk of 
life,—scholars, students, youth, children, sinners,— 
because, as the author says: 

“Skepticism cannot hold out permanently, even in 


304. 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


persons of culture and education, against absolute 
conviction.” 

The presence of Christ was so real to Immanuel 
Quint that “when he thought of Christ his heart 
ached.” The presence of Christ was so much with 
him that when they spat upon this poor “Fool in 
Christ,” stoned him, and finally arrested him and were 
taking him to jail, he laughed to himself, like a mother 
with her babe at her breast, and said: ‘Are these 
guards not the fools, even though they think I am the 
fool? Do they not know, can they not see, that Christ 
is here walking by my side? Can they not see that 
Christ is manacled to my wrists?” 

And the guards wondered why a man should laugh 
on the way to prison. The presence of Christ was so 
real to the “Fool in Christ” that when he once decided. 
that he would answer hate with hate, cruelty with 
cruelty, anger with anger, spite with spite, war with 
war, bitterness with bitterness, force with force, the 
author says: “Even the poor fool knew that he must 
renounce Christ.” 

The presence of Christ was so real to him that when 
they put him in jail he knew that Christ was there 
with him. He heard Christ say: “Immanuel Quint, 
lovest thou me?’ And he answered: ‘Yea, Lord, 
more than life!” 

Then he heard Christ say again: “Immanuel 
Quint, lovest thou me?’ And he answered again: 
“Yea, Lord, more than life!” 

A third time he heard that tender voice speak to. 


395 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


him: “Immanuel Quint, lovest thou me?’ And he 
answered a third time: ‘‘Yea, Lord, more than life 
1esel fi? 

Came the voice of Christ again to him: “Then 
Immanuel Quint, I shall come and abide with thee 
forever!” 

The ‘Fool in Christ” lived as in the presence of 
Christ, as in the sight of the Immortals, and Christ 
came and did abide with him forever, even unto death. 

He was just a ‘“‘Fool in Christ” and he could not 
have explained why he was so sure of Christ; why he 
was so certain that Christ was there with him “even 
unto the end of the world.” But he was certain with 
a great confidence. He was like the character in 
Hay’s “Pyke County Ballads:” 


“T don’t pan out on the prophets, 
Free will and that sort of thing, 
But I’ve believed in God and the angels 


199 


Ever since one night last spring! 


He could not explain, he could not prove, he could 
not blue-print, he could not diagram, but he knew that 
he was living in the presence of “God and the angels,” 
like “The Fool in Christ,” and that knowledge col- 
ored his entire life; his personal acts, his social rela- 
tionships, his thoughts, his deeds, his dreams, his 
visions, his very stride down the street, his commercial 
dealings, his blood stream, his God-dream. 

This awareness of God is something which we can- 
not prove, but it is just as real as the thought of Row- 


306 


AWARE OF THE ETERNAL 


land Sill’s poem, “The Venus of Milo,” wherein he 
contrasts the idealism of pure womanhood with sen- 
sual womanhood, and closes his convincing and poetic 
picture with the living lines: 


“But as heaven deepens, and the Cross and Lyre 
Lift up their stars beneath the Northern Crown, 
Unto the yearning of the world’s desire 
I shall be ’ware of answer coming down; 

And something, when my heart the darkness stills, 
Shall tell me, without sound or any sight, 

That other footsteps are upon the hills; 

Till the dim earth is luminous with the light 

Of the white dawn, from some far-hidden shore, 
That shines upon my forehead evermore.” 


Praise God, we mystics know that “Other footsteps 
are upon the hills.” 
Thank God that we can sing to the dawn: 


“T am aware of a glory that runs 
From the heart of myself to the heart of the suns!” 


Praise Him from whom all blessings flow that we 
know the truth of these two lines: 


“Then something sacred whispers from the skies; 
Then something deathless looks from dying eyes!” 


If I had but one sermon to preach, but one truth 
to proclaim to humanity in a life-time, it would con- 
tain the core of this thought,—that we human beings 
are living while we live; and that we shall die when 
we do die; in the presence of the Immortals; from 
Moses to Jesus; from Isaiah to Paul, from birth to 


3°7 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


death; from Genesis to Revelation; from germ to God. 
We are the Greeks of God. 


Paul was using this psychology when he presented 
his text to the Athenians under the figure of “The 
Unknown God” in his Mars Hill address: 


“Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto 
you!” 


And that thought is echoed in my Symphonic 
Theme: 


“And Phidias thundered on him: ‘Silence, slave, 
Men may not see, but the Immortals will! ” 


And in more humble walks of life, Conrad the Cob- 
bler spake it for the common run of humanity: 


“Whether ’tis hidden or whether it show, 
Let the work be sound, for the Lord will know!” 


308 


Che Call to Unity 
Ne 
Preached by CHARLES H. BRENT, BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW 
YORK, at the Cathedral, Lausanne, Switzerland 


August, 1927 


“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall be- 
lieve on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, 
Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one; that the 
world may believe that thou has sent me. And the glory, which thou 
gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are 
one: I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; 
and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved 
them, as thou hast loved me.” 

—JOHN XVII — 20-23 


E ARE here at the urgent behest of Jesus 
Christ. We have come with willing feet. All 
the prayers and desires and labors of seventeen years 
meet in this hour. 
_ The call to unity is primarily from God to man. It 
is for our good that the appeal is made. Through 
unity alone can the Kingdom of God be set among 
men. Through unity alone can the world believe and 
know that the Father has sent Jesus Christ to reveal 
Him to the whole human race. It stands as the unal- 
Note—Bishop Brent presided at the World Conference on Faith and 
Order held in Lausanne during August, 1927. On the first Sunday of 
the Conference he preached this sermon in the Cathedral at Lausanne. 
In forwarding his manuscript to the publishers, Bishop Brent wrote: 


“For the times, I feel that the sermon which I am sending you is of 
more vital importance than any other one thing.” 


309 


oN 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


terable condition on which He can fulfil His mission 
to mankind. This no one doubts who accepts Jesus 
Christ as Lord and Saviour. 

Like all God’s calls it is an invitation to codperate 
with Him. His will is part of His nature and is set 
once for all time. He lays no compulsion on us. He 
awaits our codperative response which will lay hold of 
His will and make it our own. If unity has slipped 
away from our grasp it is the common fault of the 
Christian world. If it is to be regained it must be by 
the concerted action of all Christians. Every section 
has shared in shattering unity. Every section must 
share in the effort to restore it. 

The call to unity is like the flow of a river. It 
never ceases. It has been sounding with varying ac- 
cent through the successive generations since the be- 
ginning. To us it has of late come with new force 
through the voice of God’s Spirit speaking to the many 
divided communions of our day, as the call of a shep- 
herd to his scattered flock. We have responded to His 
call. We are gathered here at His bidding. He pre- 
sides over us. In proportion to our obedience to His 
guidance we shall be able to promote His will and 
embrace it as our own. He appeals to us to hush our 
prejudices, to sit lightly to our opinions, to look on 
the things of others as though they were our very 
own—all this without slighting the convictions of our 
hearts or our loyalty to God. It can be done. It 
must be done. 

It is for conference, not controversy, that we are 


310 


THE CALL TO UNITY 


called. As God appeals to us sinners to reason to- 
gether with Him, so we Christians mutually appeal to 
one another for a like fellowship. Conference is a 
measure of peace; controversy, a weapon of war. Con- 
ference is self-abasing; controversy exalts self. Confer- 
ence in all lowliness strives to understand the view- 
point of others; controversy, to impose its views on all 
comers. Conference looks for unities; controversy ex- 
aggerates differences. Conference is a codperative 
method for conflict; controversy, a divisive method. 
I do not say there may not be occasions where contro- 
versy may be necessary. This is not one of them. 
This is a Conference on Faith and Order. We are 
pledged to it by our presence. Let us play true to our 
tryst. 

It is the call of Christ which arrests us. What He 
said then with human voice He repeats now through 
His indwelling Spirit. The general need of unity is 
set down by Him in a proverbial saying—“Every 
Kingdom divided against itself is brought to desola- 
tion; every city or house divided against itself shall 
not stand.” This is as true today as when it was 
first uttered. It has been accepted by the world of 
men as applying to every department of life in its 
separate groupings, political, intellectual, scientific, 
social. In increasingly wide circles men are striving 
for unity. Lying at the centre of all and providing 
the only enduring cement is religious unity. 

The Gospel provides for intimate relationship with 
Christ. Our Lord speaks as He thinks. He thinks in 


alist 


% 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


terms of reality. All life is a symbol. He declares 
that of which it is symbolic. So He says not “I am 
like the vine, ye are like the branches” but “Abide in 
mevand! Tomiayow vehi) ag7) the) wine, ve area tre 
branches.” Nature in its simplest manifestations 
preaches its eternal sermon, points to Him for whom it 
exists. 

Again, have you not noted how to the very end of 
His ministry Jesus Christ presents Himself and those 
whom He commissions in pastoral terms? It is not 
“T am like the good shepherd.” He is the reality of 
which the men who watched their flocks were the 
shadow. it is |\'l'.gm the good shepherd.) 10 Other 
sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I 
must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there 
shall be one flock, one shepherd.” ‘The Shepherd can 
fold His flock only if He lays down His life in bring- 
ing them together. “Therefore,’’ He says, “doth the 
Father love me.” He lays His life on His aim and is 
unafraid. 

All this was counted as axiomatic even before the 
Gospels were written. St. Paul, writing when the 
Gospel was oral, strikes sectarianism of all ages be- 
tween the eyes by calling divisions “carnal”—“for 
whereas there is among you envying and strife and 
divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men? For 
while one saith, I am of Paul; and another I am of 
Appollos; are ye not carnal? . . . For other founda- 
tion can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus 


312 


THE CALL TO UNITY 


Christ.’ Division in the eyes of this intense man is 
fatal to the life of the Church. 

What I am about to quote is as familiar to you as 
anything in Scripture, but I repeat it as signifying at 
the earliest beginning of Christianity the mind of 
Christ on the indispensability of unity as read by His 
great apostle. Now it is the human body that is the 
symbol of which Christ and His Church represent the 
reality. ‘For as the body is one, and hath many 
members, and all the members of that one body, being 
many, are our body: so also is Christ. For by one 
Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we 
be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and 
have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the 
body is not one member but many. . . . Now ye are 
the body of Christ and members in particular.” In 
relation to the Holy Communion “‘we, who are many, 
are one bread, one body.” Again it is as of a house- 
hold that the Church is spoken, “Built upon the foun- 
dation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus him- 
self being the chief corner stone,” or as a temple, or 
as the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem. In every 
instance the symbol has unity as essential to its ex- 
istence as light and heat are to the sun. So inherent 
is unity that it can admit of no racial, sex or social 
distinctions but all are ‘one man in Christ Jesus.” 

But there are still greater heights toward which we 
must rise. Either in the words of our Lord Himself, 
or of the Spirit of Our Lord speaking through a dis- 
ciple in the early second century—it is all one—the 


313 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


kind of unity which the Church must exhibit is that 
which unites the Father to the Son. Earthly imagery 
is inadequate and heaven is called to bear its witness. 
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also 
which shall believe on me through their word; that 
they all may be one; as thou Father art in me, and I 
in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the 
world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the 
glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that 
they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and 
thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; 
and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, 
and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” If our 
Lord counts unity a necessity, how absolute must that 
necessity be! Upon it depends our ability to know 
Jesus Christ in His full splendor, to do His works, to 
evangelize the nations. It is a tribute to the great- 
ness of man that it needs the full weight of the whole 
Gospel. for the miracle of a single conversion. The 
missionary quality of Christ’s prayer is passionate— 
“that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 

. that the world may know that thou hast sent 
me.” What a challenge to Christendom to set its 
own house in order before it further infect the Eastern 
world with sectarianism that robs the Gospel of its 
corporate power and gives people a stone instead of 
bread! The hundred missionary societies in China 
today are as suicidal for Christianity as the civil divi- 
sions are to her national peace and prosperity. The 
Christian Orient today is in just revolt not against 


314 


THE CALL TO UNITY 


Christianity but against divided Christianity, not 
against foreigners either in politics or religion, but 
against the domination of foreigners. 

Jesus Christ revealed by His life on earth exactly 
what the unity was between Himself and His Father. 
It is not so mystical as to be unintelligible to the 
simple-hearted. We are not left as workmen without 
a pattern for their task. The kind of oneness exhib- 
ited by Christ with His Father on earth is clear be- 
yond dispute—a paternal and filial relationship, and 
a liberty reached through absolute dependence con- 
summated by supreme sacrifice. If individuals and 
groups were to practice these two principles, disunion 
would fade away like snow before a summer sun. 
When all Christians recognize God as Father and look 
on the things of others as of brothers in Christ, the 
family of God will be complete, a glorious Church 
without spot or wrinkle. 

God calls man to unity—His ideal. Man calls to 
God for unity—his need. Unity is not only a thing 
of beauty but a matter of practical necessity. There 
are patches of unity already, it is true, in an underly- 
ing loyalty to Christ. But not enough to make Chris- 
tianity effective as a peace maker, a liberator, a uni- 
versal power, or to satisfy the mind of God. 

Some countries have a minimum of division at 
home, especially where there is a state church. But 
purely national churches of whatever sort add to the 
rival denominations which split Christ in the mission 
field, and make Christianity contradict itself as a 


315 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


world religion. In other countries, as in America, 
churches of every sort and every name obtain. The 
evil effect is most evident in rural districts where the 
e churchgoing population is divided into impoverished 
rival groups without moral and spiritual potency. The 
Christian religion is often degraded into a weak philos- 
ophy, incompetent and futile. Some churches claim 
exclusive possession of the truth as found in Christ 
and damn those who find other interpretations of His 
life and teaching. The result is that not fifty percent 
of the population even profess to be followers of 
Jesus Christ, many of them because they are sadly per- 
plexed and mystified by jangling claims and voices. 
Churches which have no real reason for holding apart 
still adhere to their shibboleths. Federative effort con- 
tinues where organic unity is the only logical step. 
There is no one voice coming with force from every 
pulpit in every country, as there should be, on such 
great fundamental questions as peace and war, what 
constitutes Christian marriage, the social claims of 
Christ, the supra-national character of the Church. 
The Catholic mind is rare. In our hearts most of us 
are devotees of the cult of the incomplete—sectarian- 
ism. The Christ in one church often categorically de- 
nies the Christ in a neighboring church. It would be 
ludicrous were it not tragic. The situation is suicidal 
and we are here as a solemn protest against it. We 
try to get together in matters of practical import but 
as often as not we find ourselves thrown back on our 
conception of Christ, the nature of the Church, God’s 


316 


THE CALL TO UNITY 


mode of governing His Church, the substance of the 
Gospel message. Christology may not be slighted. 
The value of theology must be admitted. The history 
of Christianity must be studied, if we are to get any- 
where. 

Were there no call to man from God to unity, our 
need would none the less make its high protest to God 
in heaven for unity. But we would be hopeless and 
helpless in the organized confusion to which we are 
party. It is God who takes the lead. His will that 
they may all be one must eventually be man’s will if 
to do God’s will becomes the passion of the human 
heart. When Christians accept Christ as supreme, they 
cannot but walk as companions and friends. His life 
as portrayed in the Gospels is His reliable teaching. 
His words as interpreted by His life are final and our 
duty to obey becomes our privilege, our joy. It is to 
encourage such faith in God made manifest in the 
flesh that we are in conference. That is the meaning 
of faith rather than a form of sound words, however 
important they may be. To quote the words of Zin- 
zendorf—‘I have but one passion. It is He! even 
He!” Men like Sadhu Sundar Singh, Mahatma Gan- 
dhi, and Stanley Jones are helping us to realize this 
more and more. In proportion as we rally around the 
living Christ during these days shall we banish our 
prejudices, enlighten our understanding, and correct 
our mistakes. 

Again as to the means of establishing intimate rela- 
tionship with Jesus Christ, for that is our chief quest 


317 


IF I HAD ONLY ONE SERMON TO PREACH 


and goal, is it not? We dare not be exclusive in sacra- 
mental, in mystical, or in intellectual modes of ap- 
proach. Christ’s agile feet journey to the human 
heart along many and diverse paths. That He comes 
by these and innumerable other routes who will deny? 

After all it is not these central principles that should 
give us great difficulty. Rather is it that which lies 
at the circumference—the government of the Church, 
or order. Personally I should be well content were 
we to let this last vexed subject lie for the present 
rather than give it hasty consideration. We cannot 
pretend that it is unimportant. By means of it the 
Church is held together in the fullness of organic life, 
world-wide and all embracing. But we cannot in our 
brief conference cover the whole vast field. Moreover 
if that conciliar action did not break unity, conciliar 
action cannot mend it. May it not be that, all other 
things being settled, we will grow into it as did the 
early Church ? 

But I must close. We are living in a world that 
has lost its way. Religion as summed up in Jesus 
Christ and His Kingdom can alone hope to rescue it. 
It must be, as God’s voice has warned us from the 
beginning, and our own experience has tragically con- 
firmed, unified religion. God has used, beyond any- 
thing we had a right to expect, our divided Christen- 
dom. But now that we know the sin and disaster 
of sectarianism we cannot hope that He will use it 
much longer. Though all time lies before us, we may 
not rest on our oars. We must move without haste 


318 


THE CALL TO UNITY 


and without rest. Let us keep the purpose of unity 
firm in our hearts and look on all Christians of what- 
ever name, as brothers beloved. It is thus that, by 
practising unity, we shall gain unity. 

God’s Spirit is presiding over us to make us will and 
do His good pleasure. It is He that will change for 
us, in His own way and in His own time, the impos- 
sible into the possible, and bring about that consum- 
mation of Christian hope in a Church that will be one 
flock under one Shepherd. To that end I make my 
own the impassioned appeal of St. Paul which is as 
applicable to this gathering of men of many nations 
as to the Ephesians to whom it was originally ad- 
dressed: “TI therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech 
you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith you 
were called,’”’—note the moral qualities essential for 
unity—“‘with all lowliness and meekness, with long 
suffering, forbearing one another in love; giving dili- 
gence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of 
peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye 
are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one 
Faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who 
is over all, and through all, and in all.’?9_ 


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